FLDS attorney challenges Texas count of pregnant minors from polygamous sect

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SAN ANGELO, Texas - An attorney for FLDS families in Texas challenged the state's allegations of a "pervasive pattern" of underage girls having children, saying the state's own documents show just three teenagers in custody are pregnant.

Of those girls, one will turn 18 in a few months and another merely refused to take a pregnancy test, said Rod Parker, a Salt Lake City attorney representing families at the YFZ Ranch. "That leaves us with one," he said.

Parker also said Friday that one state document includes a woman whose first child was born more than a decade ago. He said he based his statements on a copy of a list created by an investigator for Texas Child Protective Services. "I challenge CPS to come forward with the pregnant minors," said Parker.

Investigator Angie Voss submitted the chart last week during a two-day court hearing to bolster the state's contention that all children at the ranch were at risk of abuse. The state removed 462 children from the Eldorado ranch, owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, earlier this month. The last children were moved out of the San Angelo Coliseum and Wells Fargo Pavilion on Friday. The children are now in group and foster homes across Texas.

The count of children in custody rose again Friday after CPS determined that 25 girls who claimed to be adults are actually minors, said spokesman Chris Van Deusen. That group may overlap with the 20 listed in the court document as pregnant or as mothers, he said.

"The only thing we can say is we're aware of 20 young girls who became pregnant when they were between the ages of 13 and 16," Van Deusen said. "That's not to say that there are 20 now, but at the time they conceived they were 13, 14, 15, or 16. "That establishes that there was some sexual abuse here," he said.

Van Deusen said the court document may not include minors identified as pregnant or mothers since the court hearing. He also said he could not talk about investigative results that haven't been made public in court or otherwise.

One CPS document reviewed by The Salt Lake Tribune lists just three pregnant teenagers. The court document, also reviewed by The Tribune, includes women who became mothers before the FLDS' move to Texas or before the state raised the age of marriage, with parents' permission, from 14 to 16 in 2005. The chart does not indicate whether the women are legally married or the ages of the children's fathers.

Among them: One woman, now 30, listed as having given birth to her first child in 1993 when she was 14. A reference to this situation was made by a CPS investigator without explaining when the pregnancy occurred during the two-day court hearing in which Judge Barbara Walther made her decision to keep the children in state custody. Parker said one CPS list shows some of the minors in state custody are or are about to become adults. One girl sent to a Baptist emergency shelter turned 18 nearly two weeks ago, he said.

"They need to let those people out," Parker said. Parker also refuted CPS' description of an orderly, calm separation of mothers and children at the coliseum. He said it was "complete pandemonium."

As the children, all younger than 5, figured out what was happening, they started screaming and CPS workers had to pry many away from their mothers. "This is inhuman. This is un-American," said Parker, who also said a civil rights lawsuit is possible.

He also said CPS assured nursing mothers they would be able to take breast milk to their infants but, as of early Friday, had been given no information on where the children had been taken. They also were told sibling groups would be kept together. Thirteen children from one family were sent to five locations, he said.

All the FLDS men and many women, some of whom returned Friday, remain on the ranch. "There is a real singular mind-set at the ranch right now to get these children home," he said.