April 15th, 2008
12:11 PM ET

Inside the compound and face to face with polygamy

WATCHKathleen, an FLDS member, tells CNN's Anderson Cooper that her children and grandchild were taken and she wants them back.

David Mattingly
360° Correspondent

I was standing face to face with women from the Yearning For Zion ranch and getting an idea of the difficulties investigators say they've been having for the past week and a half.

In a surprising move, the secretive, polygamist FLDS sect opened its gates and allowed us to go inside.

The first thing I was told was not to call the secured and secluded property a "compound." Some of the men objected to the term, preferring their home be called a "ranch."

We were guided a short way to a residential area where the women were waiting. They had just been removed from a state shelter and taken away from their children. They were hurt, angry and some were crying.

No questions were off limits, but most of these mothers seemed very sensitive about telling me how old they were when they married. Most said 18.

Everyone I spoke with insisted that no woman was ever forced to marry, but there was frequent hesitation when I pressed for details on whether or not women under the age of 17 were being married to adult men, as the state alledges.

Most women would not give me their last name. Every time I pressed for answers I was told that all they were concerned about is getting their 416 children back.

This much I'm sure is true.


Comments to the 360° blog are moderated. What does that mean?

Filed under: David Mattingly • Polygamy
soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. Lisa

    Dear CPS and the State of Texas.

    May God bless and guide you in the pursuit to protect the children.

    This child rescue is necessary.

    The children need safety and shielding from any and all forms of abuse. This crisis will be ongoing, long lasting and very costly. The amount of time and manpower needed to service these families will be great.

    Thank you for doing your mandated job to protect and serve the children of this country. Please continue to care and defend the children of this state. Good luck with your investigations I know you will do your best job.

    To the Children may we leave you safer, stronger and help to heal you. May we save you from a cycle of abuse.

    America April is child abuse awareness month.

    April 16, 2008 at 3:59 am |
  2. Annie Kate


    You are doing a great job covering this story. I was stunned by Anderson's talk with "Kathleen" last night – she seemed like a doll whose string you pull and she says what she has been told to say. And her comparison of their treatment to that of the Jews by the Nazis just boggles the mind – there is no comparison and she made herself look stupid by maintaining there was. They are being persecuted for their religion – this case is about child abuse but they don't want to admit that.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    April 15, 2008 at 10:17 pm |
  3. Keith Ballew

    I don't understand why the media is interviewing all these woman that are assisting in child abuse, child rape, and mind control, as well as breaking the laws against polygamy. (Bigamy) These people are using the media like they are idiots. Lets see some news about all the charges these people could face after the children are removed from their control.

    April 15, 2008 at 9:36 pm |
  4. Nancy Hustis

    Good point, Jackie. Would have been far less disruptive to have removed the men from "the ranch" but my suspicion is that in order to do so, authorities would have had to have a warrant to investigate and respond to what was going on. Far easier to remove the victim than the perpetrator........ lots of examples of that in women's social evolution over the past decades!

    April 15, 2008 at 9:00 pm |
  5. julia

    Everyone of the childern should be put up for adoption,
    the Parent are mulipulating them, the deserve a chance at a real life,
    I love god to but there is somthing wrong there,

    April 15, 2008 at 8:45 pm |
  6. Richard


    You are the only one that has said any sensible thing.

    April 15, 2008 at 7:06 pm |
  7. Phil, illinois

    That woman pretty much freaked me out! I kinda feel bad for her to a point as well. Its like she had no emotion in her at all. I guess that's what happens when you are brainwashed. Just a very strange interview I thought that was.

    April 15, 2008 at 6:17 pm |
  8. Brian, Scottsdale, AZ

    The "lost boys" that have been pushed out of this cult it has been said due to compation. I say it is because the brain washing did not take and after they reached an age that wellfair checks were no longer received by the organization that they were of no use. This "SEC" is nothing more than a Brain Washed Cult run by a money hungry business organization hidding behind religous tax shelters and taking atvantage of marriage laws that allow the manipulation of wellfair. It's tax time and say we take them down the same way many other criminals have, audit their taxes!

    April 15, 2008 at 4:10 pm |
  9. Melinda

    Kelly-There are many woman and men that have left the FLDS that will tell you what really happens there. They speak of the abuses that go on, not only forcibly marrying young girls as young as 13 but forcing them to have babies over and over when they don't want to. It's not only the girls that are abused but some have reported Warren Jeffs himself abusing young boys sexually. If it were one person that reported this then maybe I would have a hard time believing it because it's so sick, but it's A LOT of people with the same stories. They report how from the time they are little how they are taught to act.

    I have every belief that these woman had a lot of fear of what would happen to them if they did not say what they were told to say last night. If you watched different news reports different woman spoke out but they all said the same exact thing, including when they were questioned about things they did not want to answer. They all said what "Kathleen" said almost word for word.

    I do feel sorry for the woman that had to leave behind their children, of course no mother wants to do that but if there is even a chance these allegations are true don't we, as a society, owe it to those children to make sure they are safe, even in their own families? To me, the safety and health of the children are more important than anything because being with your family and being abused mentally, physically and/or sexually is not better than being safe in the state's care.

    April 15, 2008 at 4:08 pm |
  10. Lyn F., Durham, NC

    @Barry, IL: I agree with him. I just listened to the interview with Kathleen via the podcast, and frankly speaking, I believe the lady has hurt her cause far more than helped it. Her ignorance and her obstinate close-mindedness shone through very clearly. It seems to me a classic case of brainwash by cult. It is very difficult for me to relate to this woman, or to even feel sorry for her because of her ignorant and frankly, offensive comparisons to her situation with what the Nazis did to the Jews. Apples and Oranges, so-called college-educated woman. IMHO – if the Texas authorities have evidence of abuse and wrong-doing of children on the parts of these adults, then they have done the right thing in the name of protecting these children.

    April 15, 2008 at 3:22 pm |
  11. Susan


    Good reporting last night.

    As I watched the interview that Anderson Cooper had with Kathleen, I was stuck with her lack of emotion. She was very stoic and never looked up, as if she was reading from some hidden script. She kept speaking of the children, but with no maternal passion. Her reference to this being the same as the Nazi extermination of Jews utterly shocked me.

    Our country was founded on the freedom to practice your own religion, but in my view this is a cult hiding behind a religious banner.
    It seems that polygamy ( which is practiced in other cultures ) is just a way of producing more individuals to populate their sociaty. It seems like a group dynamic with no regard for the indivdual person.

    With all this said, I can not begin to tell another how to live their life.


    April 15, 2008 at 3:17 pm |
  12. Dolores Austin Texas

    I watched Anderson's interview with Kathleen, she reminded me of a ventriloquist doll that was being told what to say. How could she honestly compare their situation to what happened to the Jews. That’s ludicrous. Their children have become victims under there own hands un-like the Jews who were victims of the Nazi's. She stated that she had a college degree; I guess sometimes having a college degree doesn't teach one about having common sense. I hope that the authorities here don't give the children back until they feel like they will be safe. Great interview Anderson, AC360 is back. YEA!

    April 15, 2008 at 3:03 pm |
  13. Amber, Scottsdale, AZ

    While listening last night to the interview with Kathleen,.. I found myself saying these questions out loud... (I hope Anderson gets a chance to ask these questions, if there is a "next" interview. I think it would shed some light on questions we all are wondering....

    Where are the men of the "ranch" ?
    Do they realize what they have done is wrong, and looks like a possible "felony" conviction?
    OF COURSE.... God forbid, if I were in their shoes, you wouldn't see me anywhere in the picture either. (Extremely disturbed individuals!)
    Do these women wonder why they are not receiving any support from these men to get their children back? HOPEFULLY, they'll start!

    I can't help but think these women have been victims of "brain washing" and it actually worked on Kathleen.... Perhaps not on the ladies who have left,..

    April 15, 2008 at 2:47 pm |
  14. Tina

    It is interesting that the"inside man" that they had investigating was not able to provide much info. What was that all about.

    I still think you should leave well enough alone. IT is election year, remember. It's weird that all this is in TX and CO. Why worry about it? We have better things to set our attention to. Get real, c'mon. Don't get me wrong, I feel for those people. It's just not on my top needs right now. What do you think?

    April 15, 2008 at 2:37 pm |
  15. Kelly

    As a very deep christian, I want to give another point of view to this. I see everyone saying how it is good these kids have been removed. but I object! As a mother, and a Christian! I object! that does not say I agree with their lifestyle, BUT there is no proof any child was abused and that this "Sarah" even exsists. I believe she was created jsut so the government could go in there and fish. I see this as one more way the government is stepping in and trying to control how we raise our children! these kids weren't abused! These mothers love their children and are raising them with their beliefs! Would I raise my children like this? NO way, but it is not my place or the governments to control people's religous beliefs! Where do we draw the line between Parental rights and government rights? It makes me sick that these men have more then 1 wife but come on! that is THEIR religion! That is the womens choice! And I am appalled that Anderson Cooper had the ignorance to question Kathleen like she was a idiot! When she said being housed with only 2 bathrooms for hundreds of people was like reliving Nazi times. I can see how this is true! Yes Hitler ENDED his run by killing innocent jews but it started with removing them and housing them in inhumane conditions. When did America start abusing people like this? I think everyone needs to step back and look at this from a christian point of view! How will you feel when the "Government" decides it is abuse to teach our children in the way we believe? It has already started when they removed the ability to mention God or creation in schools! This is just one more step into controlling people and forcing their will on all of us!
    Sit down and think if CPS shows up at your home today and states a daughter in your home is accusing you of abuse, but that daughter does not exsist in your home. Then they proceed to take away the rest of your kids for their safety! Every Mom and dad should be outraged at what CPS has done!
    To take children from homes without proof of abuse should be against the Law!

    April 15, 2008 at 2:17 pm |
  16. S.K.

    I'm sorry, I realized that I hit enter before I finished. The movie ("Join Us") is a documentary about a family that runs away from one of these compounds to a deprogramming facility. We see the whole "rebirth" process - Stephen Hassan guides them through the rehabilitation and it's fascinating to see him nudge the former members toward the realization that they were being brainwashed.

    What was significant to me was that the former members couldn't recognize the transgressions of their leader as unforgiveable until they could step away from him. They were too close to the wolf to see his teeth. And even then, one of the women had a strong desire to return to the group.

    It might be interesting to hear what director Ondi Timoner or the subjects of her film have to say about these events. There is an underlying question of "what happens now?" to this story and although there have been successful defectors who've given their opinion, I've gotten a sense of revisionist history from them, and would like to hear the voice of more recent defectors. And with the Timoner we'd get the opinion of a non-cult member who'd spent a great deal of time in a deprogramming facility, who'd had prolonged contact with a group leader, and who'd had the benefits of a Yale education to express her ideas.

    April 15, 2008 at 1:57 pm |
  17. Jackie

    A question that needs to be asked regarding FLDS compound. Why didn't the police remove all the men instead of the women and children? It's the men committed the crimes!

    April 15, 2008 at 1:56 pm |
  18. Barry, IL

    I listened to Anderson's interview with the lady. Although I feel sorry they have been separated from their children, it's difficult to understand the situation from what the lady says. She is so close-minded and did not want to answer any of the core questions Anderson raised except repeatedly claiming they want their children back. I cannot trust that lady. She might not tell us honestly if there is child abuse or not. It also shook me to the core when she tried to compare what the Texas administration did to that of what Nazi had done to the Jews. A person like her choose to live in that situation, whatever that might be. But the government cannot decide to give back the children to their parents for simply claiming they want them back. The Texas governemt has a duty to protect the children. And there are parents who abuse their children.

    April 15, 2008 at 1:40 pm |
  19. Illinois

    These women have been brainwashed into believing that what those people do to kids there is "normal". I seriously doubt these women would leave the sect, even if they were given the opportunity. Learned helplessness is quite apparent. I certainly hope the government does not return these kids to this sect. But removal from their homes is also very traumatic for these kids, as this is the only way of life they know. They have no idea that sexual abuse is criminal behavior. They think it's sanctioned by God.

    April 15, 2008 at 1:36 pm |
  20. Karen Brown

    I would like to comment about the polygamy situation in Texas, as I am quite disturbed that the media is casting sympathy to the Women's cry for their children in custody. Yes, it is sad and horrible that these children have to be separated from their Mothers, but which is worse, being separated or abused? If these brave law officials get bad press for moving to help rescue the children from this lifestyle, it will never be abolished, but continue to multiply and be an even larger problem for our country. These women and children are being treated like slaves; with no say so about their destiny. This is America, the land of the free and brave, where are our brave that are not afraid to stand up for what we know is right and stop this insane treatment of young women and girls once and for all? This should have been handled long ago before this group left Colorado City, Arizona, but due to one failed attempt years ago where the effort was condemned because it split up families, officials in those areas just turned their heads and let this group grow to the current population. If we continue to let them practice this so called religion, which is enslaving women and children, how many more horror stories may come from this, and what message are we sending to others that may want to form cults and make their own laws?? These poor Mothers are being told every move to make, and exactly what to say to the media to get the general public's sympathy. How to make it about separating the children from their parents, not the true issue here, which is protecting the innocent. These Women don't know any other life, so how can they know what they are being denied? Their cries are out of fear, and ignorance, and if the law does not intervene now, then when? If we don't have laws necessary to protect the innocent, then we need some new laws! Our country can't allow people to hide behind the excuse of religion to abuse people and make their own laws. This has gone on way to long and I hope law officials will press to find reason to break up this lifestyle, and give these children a chance for the life they deserve here in America. We are so concerned about the children of Iraq and Africa; maybe we need to start here at home with saving the children!
    Signed – Karen Brown – Atlanta, Georgia

    April 15, 2008 at 1:27 pm |
  21. Tammy, Berwick, LA

    All I kept thinking as I was watching the interview with Anderson and Kathleen was if these were my goddaughters, nieces and nephews, I'd be moving Heaven and Hell to get them back. If I had children, I am not sure how much further than that I would go. It's a mother's instinct to want to protect her babies. What amazes me is that apparently it's just now that they're gone that this instinct magically kicked in. What I really don't get about this whole thing, is where are the men of this community? Why aren't they fighting for their children and wives? Every guy I know would have fought for his kids and wife a long time ago. And now that they think they have some federal case, the media is suddenly their friend. I don't buy the game. This thing has been weird from the start. It just gets moreso as this goes along. I hope you get to the absolute truth behind all of this. Right now it just seems a bunch of pedophile wife beaters and their victimized wives are grasping at anything and everything to retain a way of life detrimental to all concerned. And that includes a sudden need to be mothers of the year for the media.

    April 15, 2008 at 1:25 pm |
  22. S.K.

    Have you seen "Join Us"? This whole story is giving me flashbacks of that film.

    April 15, 2008 at 1:16 pm |
  23. Lilibeth

    Hi David, from the very beginning these women were told to be obedient, and I get a feeling that they’ve been told what to say in front of the camera. Whether or not they spoke the truth to you, as long as these women don’t stand up to themselves and break free from their lifestyle, polygamy is here to stay.

    Edmonds, Washington

    April 15, 2008 at 1:14 pm |
  24. Myta Santiago

    I was just blogging about you!

    I understand how the women feel. They're mothers no matter what, and taking away their children is one tribulation that they can go through with a very heavy heart. I think they know that what the social workers are doing is intended for the betterment for the children, but that maternal instinct to protect their young from other people remains. I mean, some of them have been taken away from their parents, right? They don't want the past to happen to their own children, even if the intention for separation is by no means bad.

    - Myta Santiago
    Manila, Philippines

    April 15, 2008 at 12:31 pm |
  25. Amber

    I was amazed that they allowed the media into the compound.."ranch". I guess they think we will believe all of their rhetoric and will give them their kids back. I hope that does not happen. Being taken away from there was the best thing that ever happened to them.

    April 15, 2008 at 12:23 pm |
  26. Michael, NC

    You are the man. Seriously. I love when you can get in there and push and get answers even when met with opposition and are turned away. I really enjoy your interviews. They are always touchy subjects, but you are professional and get the job done time after time. Thanks for shedding light on these women and the insides of this "ranch" (compound). You have done a fantastic job thus far.

    April 15, 2008 at 12:20 pm |

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