COMMENTS: Was Ranch Search Legal?

ABC focused on the fundamentalist Mormon followers of Warren Jeffs, currently imprisoned on a statutory rape conspiracy for organizing his adult male followers to take polygamous child brides. ABC's Mike von Fremd (embargoed link) led from San Angelo Tex, where the confinement of 400-or-so children from the Yearning For Zion ranch may turn out to be illegal if authorities fail to identify the teenage mother whose complaint was the basis for their search warrant. Officials "seem more encouraged than ever" that they may be able to locate her. Both von Fremd and NBC's Don Teague listed the property that was confiscated as a result of the search. Most of it was innocuous--records of births and marriages, computers, pregnancy test kits; one thing von Fremd found "disturbing" was "papers police refer to as 'cyanide poisoning documents.'"

ABC also played a preview of Dan Harris' report for Nightline on the sect's compound in Colorado City along the Arizona-Utah line. It was from that community that Jeffs selected the "most extreme members" to set up the compound in Texas. He reported allegations that "a lot of underage girls" in Colorado City are pregnant. If true, "there is a major question for law enforcement--whether the extraordinary raid that took place in Texas should now be repeated."

In the meantime, ABC's von Fremd found "despair" among Texan parents separated from their children. He quoted complaints published in Salt Lake City's Deseret News from Mormon mothers that their children had been "kidnapped for no reason" and were being "held prisoner."


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