Children's Return Ordered at YFZ Ranch, but Investigation Continues
Thursday, June 12, 2008 11:22 AM

Two months after nearly 450 children were removed from their home at Yearning for Zion ranch, the court has determined that there was insufficient evidence to warrant the removal of the children. The Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints, the organization to which the families belong, has a long alleged history of polygamous and under-age, forced marriages. The former leader, Warren Jeffs, is currently serving a ten to life sentence for the forced marriage of a fourteen year-old and faces several similar charges in other jurisdictions.


The raid on the ranch began after a call from a person claiming to be a sixteen year-old inside the ranch, and suffering from physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her “spiritual husband.” This call is now believed to be a hoax, but it provided the reason for Child Protective Services to enter the compound and remove the children because they were at risk of early and forced marriages, and sexual abuse.


Even though the children have now begun returning to the ranch, the possibility of criminal charges remains. DNA samples have been taken from many of those on the ranch to help investigators determine whether any of the underage girls had children fathered by the older men from within the community. However, criminal prosecution will be difficult without a victim willing to testify to the sexual abuse and forced marriages.


Compiled from: Ralph Blumenthal, "Court Says Texas Illegally Seized Sect’s Children," New York Times,  23 May 2008; Michelle Roberts, "Criminal Case Against Texas Sect Members Possible," The Washington Post, 4 June 2008.