The 416 children, ranging from infants to 17 years old, were removed from the communal ranch near Eldorado starting April 3, after authorities said they had received a phone call from a 16 year old girl saying she had a child and had been beaten and raped by her 50-year-old spiritual husband. During Thursday’s hearing, authorities admitted that they had not identified the girl among the children removed from the ranch.
Ms. Voss, the state investigator, testified that several girls said they knew the caller, who had identified herself as Sarah. But they were uncooperative under further questioning, Ms. Voss said.
The children were taken from the 1,691-acre Yearning for Zion ranch operated by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which long ago broke away from the mainstream Mormon Church.
The question facing Judge Walther is whether the children on the ranch were abused or whether they are at risk of being abused. Among the difficulties facing authorities was identifying which children were abused. And the judge might have to decide whether the community’s practice of under-age marriage meant the entire culture constituted a danger to children.