Friday, April 18, 2008

Texas cult case: Where's Sarah?

UPDATE 4/19: Amazing news update. Rusty is, indeed, a god.
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A week ago, Rusty Shackleford said of the Texas polygamy cult case:
From the beginning my 'something not right about the way this is being reported' detector has been going off.
Rusty may be onto something. Remember 16-year-old "Sarah"? Nearly two weeks after the raid, Texas officials say they still haven't found her:
The raid was prompted by a series of phone calls in late March from a 16-year-old who officials referred to as Sarah, who said she had been beaten and forced to become the "spiritual" wife to an adult man. FLDS members have denied that the girl, supposedly named Sarah Jessop Barlow, exists.
Upon arriving at the ranch with law enforcement officers the evening before the raid, the men who met them at the gate told them there were no Sarahs there, [Child Protective Services investigator Angie] Voss testified.
However, she said, in interviewing 20 women 17 or younger at the ranch, investigators learned that there were five Sarahs -- and one of them, like the caller, was 16 and had a baby, although her name was not Sarah Jessop Barlow. The women told investigators they did not know where that Sarah was. It remains unclear whether the 16-year-old who made the calls has been located by authorities. . . .
Earlier Thursday, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said on CNN's "American Morning" that "the case really doesn't hinge upon that particular 16-year-old."
He said once investigators could "in good faith . . . go into the compound and determine whether or not there was any kind of wrongdoing, the case is on its own after that."
"In good faith?" Remember, this hearing is about the state of Texas seeking custody of all 461 children from the FLDS cult. The case began with this one allegation of abuse, the state has failed even to locate the person who made the allegation, and yet hundreds of children are in danger of being taken from their parents?

As Rusty said, it's the way the media is reporting the case that causes suspicion. The media has tried to portray this as a "children endangered" case, repeating Texas officials' claims that girls were "spiritually married" as soon as they reached puberty. But if there is any actual evidence of that, it didn't come out in the first day of court hearings:
A child protection supervisor testified Thursday that she encountered several pregnant teen girls at a polygamist ranch who called each other "sister wives" and who believed it was acceptable to be "spiritually united" with a man at any age.
"It was the belief that no age was too young to be married," said Angie Voss, a supervisor for investigation at Texas Child Protective Services. . . .
Voss said officials were concerned over the sect promoting "children having children," but added: "It's not about religion, it's about child abuse." . . .
Voss said about 130 of the children removed were under the age of 4 and that girls as young as 13 had conceived children at the ranch.
"She said," but where's the evidence? If the state can produce actual evidence of pregnant 13- and 14-year-olds -- and obstetric examinations could determine that very easily --then they've got a serious case. So far, though, there has been no report of any such evidence. So far as can be determined from this CNN/AP story, they've found one 16-year-old with a baby, but if every pregnant 16-year-old in Texas is cause for a paramilitary raid, they're going to need more SWAT teams

Polygamy is illegal in Texas, and officials can prosecute those cases if they wish. Likewise, they can prosecute every case of statutory rape involved in these "spiritual marriages." But to take 130 children under the age of 4 away from their parents? That's extreme.

Of course, the FLDS sound creepy enough, especially if they were indeed forcing teenage girls to become the fourth or fifth wives of the cult's "elders." Still, Texas officials need to produce a lot more evidence if they want to justify taking all the children away from all the parents.

You know what this is starting to remind me of? The McMartin Preschool case.

UPDATE: Rusty has reiterated his suspicions:
I'm sorry, many of the charges being laid at the feet of the polygamy cult are just way too over the top to believe and I've been saying this from the beginning. Young girls forced to have sex ... in the compound's temple... while others watched [and I'm getting this from TV reports] ... doesn't this sound like something out of a bad move made for Lifetime TV? . . .
It could turn out that some of the allegations against the FLDS are true, such as claims of widespread statutory rape. But I have a pretty strong feeling that most, if not all, of the more sensationalist stories will turn out to be just that: sensationalist stories.
Exactly. Statutory rape and polygamy are both against the law, and FLDS members may be charged with either crime. But lurid tales of young virgins forcibly raped in temple rituals by their "spiritual" husbands as soon as the girls reached menarche? Sounds like media hype to me.


  1. "Where's the evidence"?--or as they say in cattle country (like Texas), "Where's the beef?"

  2. Apparently there's a problem because the women are deliberately lying about which children are whose children. That in itself raises questions. Their first problem is to determine who is the mother of whom. I agree with you in some aspects - if there aren't legal marriages on file somewhere, then you don't have polygamy. You have a group of people living together commune style, and being sexually active in a manner that they themselves direct. That isn't against the law, or every man or woman who divorced, remarried and had children by more than one partner would be guilty. Good-bye Hollywood!
    The women were apparently also deceptive about 13 year olds having sex and/or having children. That's a different problem.
    Looks like the DNA labs are going to be _very_ busy.

  3. Now, if they put these children in foster homes, how many will be surely abused there. It's a common occurance out in the "real" world.
    But, alas, now they can be taught to have sex at young ages with lots of people, and heh, drugs too...
    We'll teach 'em out here in the "real" world how it's done.......

  4. The compounds should not be allowed to operate in the first place! If a populated place must lock its gates and remain out of the view of law enforcers, it has obviously has something to hide! You can not tell me that those marriages are of equal power between man and wife? There is much evidence given by women who have fled the compound in the past that the women and children are suppressed and abused! Law enforcers should have acted much sooner!

  5. Since the hearings are held only to sort out the parentage of the children, where's Sarah' is an inappropriate question to ask in that context.

    The question should go to law enforcemtn officials.