Thursday, May 1, 2008

Sect's boys may have been abused too, agency says

(CNN) -- Investigators are looking into the possible sexual abuse of some of the boys taken from a polygamist sect's ranch in Texas and into how several children apparently suffered broken bones while there, officials said Wednesday.

Suspicions of sexual abuse are based on interviews with the children and journal entries found at the Yearning For Zion ranch, the state's Child Protective Services agency said.

The compound is owned by the Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a Mormon offshoot that practices polygamy.

But an FLDS spokesman blasted the department, saying it was unethical of CPS to leak information without any legitimate evidence.

"They don't have any evidence that there's abuse, and neither do I," Rod Parker said at a news conference in Salt Lake City, Utah -- home to the sect.

"CPS is trying to grab headlines ... and insulate themselves from fair and justified criticism on the way they have treated this case."

Law enforcement and child welfare officials raided the ranch this month, acting on phone calls alleging physical and sexual abuse, and took more than 460 children and teens into state custody.

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A family court judge recently ruled that they will remain in state custody for now.

The sheer number of children has created confusion between state officials and FLDS families and their attorneys, many of whom say their clients don't know where their kids have been placed.

CPS has said that there is a lack of documentation, which has made tracking down children's names, ages and parents difficult.

Parker blamed CPS for the problems, saying that birth certificates were seized in the raid and that the department often rejects the documents to classify more children as minors.

Meanwhile, CPS Commissioner Carey Cockerell briefed the state Senate Health and Human Services committee Wednesday on the case but did not provide details on the possibility of sexual abuse. He did say that investigators had identified 41 children who had sustained broken or fractured bones at the ranch.

"Several of these fractures have been found in very young children, and several [children] have multiple fractures," he said.

CPS said on its Web site that the department does "not have X-rays or complete medical information on many children, so it is too early to draw any conclusions based on this information," but "it is cause for concern and something we'll continue to examine."

Susan Hays, who is among the hundreds of attorneys representing the children removed from the ranch, said she had not heard what the department reported Wednesday.

She said that as far as she knew, no CPS official had contacted any of the lawyers about the reports before making them public.

"They're not running a child protection case; they're running a PR campaign," she said.

Parker agreed, saying, "It's unethical for CPS or any other investigating agency to suggest they are investigating something unless they have evidence."

The ranch has a medical clinic staffed by a licensed physician who is able to treat simple fractures and consults with non-FLDS specialists in nearby San Angelo for serious cases, he said. FLDS residents are also sent to San Angelo for emergency treatment.

Parker said he asked the doctor about the reports of broken bones.

The doctor described the fractures as "run-of-the-mill injuries," Parker said.

"They are very active children," he said. "They're kids, and they play; they fall down, and they get injuries. ... To suggest that they're all sitting around quietly and their bones are breaking -- there's no evidence of that."

Tom Vick, who is on the board of directors for the Texas State Bar and is charged with organizing the attorneys to represent the children, said the reports would need to be reviewed.

Original Article with more pics-

Sect's boys may have been abused too, agency says -

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Texas officials looking at possible abuse among FLDS boys

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