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Updated 11:19 AM- COLORADO CITY, Ariz. - Texas Rangers interviewed Dale E. Barlow on Saturday and later acknowledged he may not be the suspect wanted in an abuse investigation that sparked a sweeping crackdown at a polygamous outpost in west Texas.
"It's entirely possible that the person we are looking for is not him," Tela Mange, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, wrote in an e-mail to The Salt Lake Tribune. "Many of these folks appear to have the same or very similar names. We will continue our investigation to see what we can find out."
Barlow, 50, is still named in a Texas warrant in connection with the alleged physical and sexual abuse of a 16-year-old girl, whom authorities continue to search for among the 416 children they have taken into custody.
Texas authorities began removing children from the YFZ Ranch, owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, in Eldorado, Texas, on April 4.
Barlow is a member of the sect. In 2007, he pleaded no contest to a sex-crimes charge related to a plural marriage to a teen. He served 45 days in jail and is on three years' probation.
Friend Walker, chief of the Mohave County, Ariz., probation office, said the Rangers met with Barlow at the office of his St. George probation officer at about noon. They left without arresting him.
After his interview with Texas authorities, Barlow returned to his Colorado City, Ariz., home in a truck driven by his lawyer, Bruce Griffen, of Flagstaff, who also represented Barlow during his sex case.
The polygamous FLDS sect is based in the adjoining border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. Griffen dropped Barlow off behind his house - concealed on three sides by a 9-foot wooden fence plastered with "private property" and "no trespassing" signs - and Barlow quickly disappeared inside.
Outside Barlow's home, Griffen said his client met voluntarily with two Texas Rangers and was questioned about allegations in the warrant.
"They [Rangers] scratched and sniffed," Griffen said, "but didn't make an arrest."
The attorney said his client "has alibis" and the support of his probation officers. "There was no misconduct and no evidence against [Barlow]," said Griffen, adding that Texas officers plan to stay in touch with his client by telephone.
"It's in everyone's best interest to conclude this as soon as possible and remove the black cloud over him." Brian Barnard, a Salt Lake City lawyer, said arresting someone whom police know is innocent can be a violation of civil rights.
The standard, Barnard said, is whether a reasonable police officer would make the bust based on available information. In Barlow's case, Barnard added, even keeping his name on an unexecuted warrant could create a rights violation.
"If they [police] know that it's not him and they leave it on the books and he goes to Texas and gets arrested, they're liable."
Earlier Saturday, Mange had said Texas authorities may yet arrest Barlow. "We are still conducting our investigation," she said. "Just because we have not yet arrested someone doesn't mean we can't or won't later on."
Walker said Barlow has met his obligations while on probation, including initial weekly and, later, twice-weekly meetings.
"He has never asked for or been given approval to travel to Texas, which would be required," Walker said. But Barlow "is not the guy they want," maintains Griffen, who also has represented other members of Barlow's family.
"A lot of them have names that start with [the letter] 'D,' " he said.