Child welfare officials and Texas state troopers have removed 52 girls from a secretive religious retreat built by polygamist leader Warren Jeffs following a complaint. Jeffs, already convicted of an offence involving a 14-year-old girl, is currently awaiting trial on incest and other charges.
The girls, aged from six months to 17 years and wearing long-sleeved dresses, were bussed away to be interviewed, and 18 were immediately taken into state custody. No arrests had been made.
Late last Thursday authorities entered the 1,700-acre retreat built by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, north of the small town of Eldorado, after receiving a call alleging physical abuse of a 16-year-old girl.
State officials said they did not know how many people lived at the retreat, but local officials in 2006 put the number at about 150.
The congregation is one of several groups that split from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – or Mormon church – decades after it renounced polygamy.