April 7, 2008 in Nation/World

Women, children taken from polygamist compound

Michelle Roberts Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Law enforcement officials assist members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints onto a school bus in Eldorado, Texas, on Sunday. Associated Press
(Full-size photo)

ELDORADO, Texas – Authorities who removed 219 women and children from a polygamist compound were struggling Sunday to determine whether they had the 16-year-old girl whose report of an underage marriage led them to raid the sprawling rural property.

Many people at the compound, built by followers of jailed polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, are related and share similar names; investigators said in some cases they were giving different names at different times.

Investigators on Sunday bused them out of Eldorado, nearly 200 miles northwest of San Antonio, as other law enforcement agents continued to search the 1,700-acre compound.

State troopers armed with a search warrant raided the compound Friday to look for evidence of a marriage between the girl, who allegedly had a baby at 15, and a 50-year-old man. Under Texas law, girls younger than 16 cannot marry, even with parental consent.

The women and children were taken out of the compound Friday and Saturday and had been staying in a local church and civic center.

By midday Sunday, dozens of women and children, mostly girls, were seen boarding buses on their way to San Angelo, a larger town 45 miles away.

Officers entered the temple on the grounds late Saturday, but by Sunday they still had not located the 16-year-old whose initial report of abuse led to the raid.

“There were some tense moments last night, but everything has remained calm and peaceful and they are continuing their search,” Allison Palmer, a prosecutor from a nearby county handling the case, said early Sunday.

Marleigh Meisner, a spokeswoman for Child Protective Services, said investigators were still trying to determine whether the girl was among the people, including 159 children, removed from the compound.

Meisner said the adults were cooperating with investigators and didn’t believe any had been forced to leave the compound.

Investigators also were looking for the man the girl allegedly married, Dale Barlow. Palmer said other law enforcement agencies “know where (Barlow) is and have talked to him, but our investigators have not.”

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