5 arrested in West Texas polygamist sect case
AUSTIN — Texas authorities on Monday arrested five men from a West Texas polygamist sect on charges ranging from sexual assault of a child to bigamy, an individual close to the investigation has told The Dallas Morning News.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who announced the indictments against the members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on Tuesday, is expected to announce the arrests and identify the suspects at a 3:30 p.m. press conference.
The West Texas grand jury that indicted the men also charged sect leader Warren Jeffs with sexual assault. Mr. Jeffs is currently in jail in Arizona awaiting trial for similar charges.
The source who spoke to The News indicated all the men were apprehended by authorities in Schleicher County, home of the sect’s Yearning For Zion ranch.
Willie Jessop, who has been speaking for the sect in Mr. Jeffs’ absence, has said since last week that the men would turn themselves in when they were identified. But law enforcement officials had been hesitant to identify the suspects, fearing they would flee.
Last week the attorney general’s office presented evidence against several sect members to a Schleicher County grand jury for the second time in two months – and left 10 hours later with charges against six men.
Five men, including Mr. Jeffs, were charged with felony sexual assault of a child, and one of those men was also charged with felony bigamy. A sixth man was charged with a misdemeanor: failing to report child abuse.
Investigators had long struggled to link men to their wives and children – the result, they said, of sect members giving them various names and ages. But DNA evidence was available for last week’s grand jury.
Mr. Abbott has said that he plans to extradite Mr. Jeffs, 52, to Texas. Even if he is convicted in Texas, Mr. Jeffs would have to return to Utah to finish his sentence there.
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