Grand Jury Hearings to Resume in Polygamist Sect Case

By Emily Ramshaw
Dallas Morning News
July 22, 2008

ELDORADO When a grand jury reconvenes here today to hear evidence of alleged sexual abuse inside a West Texas polygamist community, the state's chief law enforcement official will be in the courtroom Attorney General Greg Abbott, two officials said.

Though Mr. Abbott's office declined to comment on whether he would be in town, two law enforcement sources close to the massive child welfare investigation confirmed that he was coming, a move they indicated could signal indictments.

Jerry Strickland, a spokesman with Mr. Abbott's office, said on Friday that the DNA samples taken from parents and children at the Yearning For Zion ranch had been sent to the court "in the last week," though he wouldn't speculate about whether that meant criminal charges were on the way.

Last month, a Schleicher County grand jury heard evidence against the members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a Mormon breakaway sect. They took testimony from just a few of the state's witnesses and adjourned without indicting anyone.

The state has accused the sect of forcing young girls into sexual relationships and "spiritual" marriages with older men. This spring, child welfare investigators seized 440 children and roughly two dozen women they believed were underage from the ranch and took them into state custody a move that was overturned by the Texas Supreme Court months later. Attorneys for the sect did not return phone calls.



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