The Associated Press
SAN ANGELO, Texas (AP) - State officials today enforced a judge's order to confiscate the cell phones of the women and children removed from a West Texas polygamous sect's private ranch
after an abuse allegation.
The order was sought by attorneys ad litem for 18 girls from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, said Marissa Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for Texas Child Protective Services.
Reading from the court document, Gonzalez said attorneys reasoned that cutting off communications would "prevent the possible tampering of witnesses."
It was unclear how many phones were taken Sunday. Gonzalez did not know if the document could be released.
Some 416 youngsters were rounded up and placed in temporary state custody 11 days ago. That's when a domestic violence hot line recorded a complaint from a 16-year-old girl who said she was suffering physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her 50-year-old husband.
Affidavits filed by child protection workers said that upon investigating, they found a pattern of abuse existed at the Yearning for Zion ranch in Eldorado, about 45 miles south of San
The 1,700-acre fenced ranch, a former game preserve, was bought by the FLDS in 2003. A number of large dormitory-style homes have been built, along with a small medical facility, a cheese factory, a rock quarry, water treatment plant and a towering, white limestone temple.
The children are currently being housed in San Angelo's historic Fort Concho and at the nearby Wells Fargo pavilion. About 140 women from the ranch are also with the children, although they are not in state custody.