School buses and buses from First Baptist Church of Eldorado were used Friday to transport 167 children from the YFZ Ranch to the Schleicher County Civic Center where they were turned over to representatives of Child Protective Services. There are reportedly 96 boys and 71 girls in the group with ages ranging from 6 months to 17 years.
ELDORADO, TEXAS -- Buses from Schleicher County ISD and First Baptist Church of Eldorado were pressed into service Friday to transport 167 children away from the YFZ Ranch where they had been removed from their parents custody by Texas Child Protective Services in accordance with a court order issued by 51st District Judge Barbara Walther.
The children range in age from 6 months of 17 years. There are 96 boys and 71 girls. CPS is trying to determine if the parents of the babies are among the young girls they took into custody, or if the parents even live at the YFZ Ranch.
CPS is seeking immediate temporary custody of 18 of the children while the remainder are to be interviewed to determine if they are "at risk."
Community members as well as congregations from a several Eldorado churches began preparing food for the children. They also helped prepare cots and bedding in hopes of making the children as comfortable as possible.
The move to take the children into custody began with a CPS that an underage girl at the YFZ was being sexually and physically abused. Law enforcement officers sealed of all the roads, leading to the YFZ Ranch late Thursday afternoon. The lawmen demanded entry to the ranch just before midnight that evening and they escorted CPS workers on to YFZ property without incident.
CPS interviews of the children lasted throughout the night and well into the afternoon on Friday. That's when a number of buses began transporting children from the YFZ Ranch to the Schleicher County Civic Center south of Eldorado. There the children were turned over to CPS workers.
It is not clear who will end up with custody of the children once hearings are held Monday before 51st District Judge Barbara Walther in San Angelo.
CPS spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner stated Friday that the residents at the YFZ had cooperated with investigators by providing access to children they needed to interview.
Lawmen were also hoping to serve an arrest warrant and a search warrant while on the compound. It is unknown if either were successfully executed.
Meanwhile, the roadblocks continued into the night Friday as lawmen were told to prepare for another long and chilly night.
The YFZ Ranch is home to members of a polygamous sect from Utah known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). The group purchased the property near Eldorado in late 2003. The following year they began construction of numerous dormitory style buildings and a massive white limestone temple. Since that time a small town has been built on the property.
FLDS Church leader Warren Jeffs was convicted last year on two counts of Rape as an Accomplice for his role in arranging and performing marriages between one of his male followers and his underage cousin. Jeffs is facing similar charges in Arizona as well as a federal charge of Unlawful Flight to avoid Prosecution. He was on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List until his capture near Las Vegas Nevada in 2006.
The Eldorado Success will report more details as they become available. Check this website for the latest news.