SAN ANGELO, Texas — The state brought up guns and vaults as it focused on evidence collection on the fourth day of the trial of Keith Dutson Jr., a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints charged with sexual assault.
The evidence came from a raid on the Yearning for Zion Ranch in 2008 when authorities acted on what was later determined to be a hoax call of a woman claiming abuse at the ranch.
“Where did you seize these?” Eric Nichols, the lead prosecutor, asked Texas Ranger Don Williams about documents.
“From individual sites in the main vault,” Williams said.
Williams and others testified about their involvement in the raid, including how ranch residents quietly prayed outside the temple walls when law enforcement personnel were inside.
Texas Ranger Lt. Jesse Valdez talked about how he crawled through a hole drilled in the wall to get access to the vault, where law enforcement personnel believed the caller might have been held.
“All I had was a flashlight … and my sidearm,” Valdez said.
Valdez said that about 400 boxes and 44 safes were taken from the vault of the temple and what has been referred to as the temple annex and other places on the ranch.
Attorneys also argued as to the significance of the guns found.
Nichols had Williams point out that bows, an assortment of rifles, some with scopes, and some pistols and an assault rifle were also on the ranch.
Brandon Hudson, one of Dutson’s attorneys, said the ranch had been used for hunting.
Fifty-first District Judge Barbara Walther, outside the jury’s presence, said the mention of guns on the ranch should not be a problem since such weapons are common on West Texas ranches. Hudson countered that the context of finding guns during a search warrant execution makes it more serious and in need of clarification for a jury.
Jurors were shown pictures of the outside of some of the buildings, including inscriptions on the temple and temple annex.
“The Lord is our lawgiver,” part of one inscriptions read.
Most of the Rangers’ testimony was used to lay the groundwork for evidence to be presented later.
The defense objected to all of the evidence of the raid as being obtained through illegal search and seizure.
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