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Last of the FLDS kids removed from the coliseum, FLDS spokesman lashes out

SHARE Last of the FLDS kids removed from the coliseum, FLDS spokesman lashes out

SAN ANGELO, Texas — The remaining children being housed in a makeshift shelter after a raid on the Fundamentalist LDS Church's YFZ Ranch have been bused out of here.

The last buses pulled out of the San Angelo Coliseum grounds in convoy about noon local time, escorted by police cars and ambulances. Small children waved to reporters and photographers as they drove by. Some appeared to be very young; one child was seen holding a bottle.

"There were some infants, but they were infants of children," Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, told the Deseret News on Friday.

The children were separated from their mothers on Thursday, with the exception of infants under 12 months old. Texas child welfare authorities said the children will now be heading to foster care homes and facilities scattered around the state.

Once they are placed in foster care, they will have to acclimate to life in a different world from the one behind the gates of the "Yearning for Zion" Ranch near Eldorado, Texas. Child protective services workers have said they would segregate some of the children in foster care facilities, ensure they have the ability to practice their religion and continue to wear clothing unique to the FLDS lifestyle.

At a news conference Friday afternoon, a spokesman for the FLDS Church attacked the state's CPS over claims of how many pregnant minors were in custody and the conditions in which all the children were housed.

The spokesman said he knew of only two pregnant teenagers who were in state protective custody.

Rod Parker said they would be sending letters to all of the government agencies involved, demanding that all evidence be preserved for future use in lawsuits.

Asked what type of lawsuit was being planned, Parker would only say, "civil rights litigation."

Reacting to the numerous allegations that continue to swirl around the polygamist sect, Parker said "those are just allegations and most of them are denied."

Meanwhile, the cases will go on in court, as a judge considers each of the 462 children and whether they should be reunited with their parents, remain in foster care or be placed with other family members.

"All that's going to happen in a courtroom," Van Deusen said. "The judge makes those decisions. We will make recommendations, the children's parents will have input. A judge has to consider all that and decide what's best for the children."

Texas authorities maintain that they found abuse on the YFZ Ranch, including a pattern of teenage girls being married to older men. Some girls in protective custody, CPS alleges, had babies while they were teenagers.

The raid began April 3 when authorities responded to a phone call of someone claiming to be a 16-year-old girl named "Sarah," who was pregnant and in an abusive polygamist marriage. Law enforcement and child welfare workers responded and said they discovered more signs of abuse. A judge ordered all 462 children removed from the ranch.

The Texas Attorney General's Office has also completed gathering DNA samples from the people at the YFZ Ranch. Only 80 men and women showed up at the Schleicher County Memorial Building in Eldorado to give a sample, authorities said. An additional 70 gave samples at the San Angelo Coliseum.

The DNA samples will be used to establish paternity and kinship, and the Texas Attorney General's Office said it did not know if everyone on the FLDS compound gave a sample, pursuant to a judge's order. If they did not, they could be found in contempt of court.

An FLDS spokesman has said he feared authorities were using the DNA samples to build a criminal case against members of the polygamous sect.

Clean up is beginning at the coliseum, which has served as a makeshift shelter for part of the time the children have been in state protective custody. Conditions have been described by FLDS members as cramped, with "cots and cribs wall-to-wall." Before the coliseum, the children were housed at Fort Concho. A relief agency that has coordinated the efforts has estimated the cost in the past at $30,000 per day.

E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com