April 16th, 2008
12:03 PM ET

Polygamy: a case for the history books

David Mattingly
360° Correspondent

San Angelo, Texas is overrun with lawyers.  The city of 88 thousand  is struggling to find accommodations for more than 350 attorneys who have volunteered to handle custody cases for the 416 children removed from the polygamous compound in Eldorado.  Every hotel room is booked. Some are finding private homes to stay in.  There is a strong sense of anticipation in town because this case is one for the history books.  People here like to say, "Everything's big in Texas"...but the legal community has never seen anything this big.

Filed under: Polygamy
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Joanna

    these women should not get their children back because they allowed their under age daughters to be raped and married to perverted old men in the name of their poglymist life style wich is against our laws. and these so called mothers should be proscuted for allowing the underaged girls to be raped and married to these perverted old men and the men should be proscuted and children should never be given back to these evil people they need to be protected' . mothers are so pose to protect their children from rape and all bad things their not so pose to allow some old perverted man to rape their daughters so dont call them mothers.

    April 17, 2008 at 3:42 pm |
  2. Maureen

    I think that Texas CPS is doing the right thing. I don't think that this community is being singled out because of their religion. CPS does the same EXACT thing for children of every race and religion.

    I've watched the mothers' reactions to all of this the past few days. These women remind me of "Stepford Wives". They appear robotic and very protective of the men they call their husbands. Why wouldn't they answer the questions asked about the men? And why aren't these men appearing on these interviews. Seems like they have something to hide. These women complained that CPS lied to them in order to separate them from their kids. These women went on and on about being honest and truthful. I find that interesting especially when CNN reported that CPS workers were lied to from these women about names and ages.

    It is my sincere hope that these children are not being abused. But if they were abused, the men and women responsible need to be brought to justice.

    April 17, 2008 at 2:42 pm |
  3. Marianne Berrett

    I am curious as to why we have only seen the FLDS women interviewed thus far on news programs like Larry King, Anderson Cooper, and the rest. Where are the polygamist MEN and their explanations as to the questions presented by the press?

    April 17, 2008 at 1:54 pm |
  4. John, PA

    I would like to find the script that the women of the YFZ ranch are reading from. Their delivery is terrible.

    April 17, 2008 at 1:54 pm |
  5. Martha Macy

    Re: polygamists in Texas......

    Can anyone explain to me why on earth the authorities didn't go into that compound and remove the MEN!!! They are the criminals!
    The reason they are no where to be seen is because they know they are breaking the law, and they have no defense.

    The women and children are the victims here! Those women look like deer caught in a headlight. The women are brainwashed, emotionally abused, probably victims of domestic violence.

    They should have been able to stay in the compound with the children. The kids would not be getting sick from "outside germs" that they have no immunity too, they would not be traumatized right now, and caregivers could then go to the compound and try to help those people.

    Am I wrong?

    We all know that that sect is nothing but a cover for domestic violence and pedophilia. Crimes by those men.

    Wake up people!!! Stop blaming the women!

    April 17, 2008 at 12:13 pm |
  6. Carol, CA

    Hi Jill in Michigan,

    Why don't we just hang 'em all? It's Texas!

    They don't look like us and they don't think like us. That seems like a good enough reason. We don't need evidence – we heard reports of what someone allegedly saw – what more proof do we need?

    Seriously, I do not care for their lifestyle and I am certainly not defending child abuse, but I am so surprised at how quickly people will condemn others based on hearsay evidence. When we see what 'probable cause' info the CPS had then we should go from there. Maybe CPS had reason to believe there was a suicide pact and the people inside the compound would take their own lives, and the children's lives, if the authorities went in there. WE DON'T KNOW. Maybe they based this whole thing on a phonecall and over-reacted – WE DON'T KNOW

    It amazes me how people will quote rumors as if they are facts. I hope I am never the accused with the 360 bloggers as the jury.

    April 17, 2008 at 12:01 pm |
  7. Karin

    I have a question about polygamy. Legally these men are not married to any more than one woman. In the eyes of the state they are only legally married to their first wife. The ceremonies of marriage they have are not real, and therefore their marriages are not "real" marriages. So, how can something that is not even real or legal be illegal? How can you prosecute for having more than one wife, when legally they only do have one wife? Basically the other women are just their girlfriends in the eyes of the state.

    I don't agree with what they are doing or any of this, I'm just curious.

    April 17, 2008 at 11:39 am |
  8. Maribeth

    I have been watching this story develop with great interest. I had read Carolyn Jessop's book about 3 months ago, and to see what she described come to life has been fascinating.
    What I want to know is why do reporters keep asking the mother's at what age were they married? These women know they are not in fact legally married – I would challenge any of them to produce a marriage certificate. I think the question should be "at what age did you have your first child." They all seem very rehearsed and robotic in their interviews.
    I would also want to know from the mother who was on Larry King last night who described her 5-year old as handicapped, what will his place be in that society? I am the mother of an autistic child, and I worry everyday about his future. What can this child expect in that community as he grows up.

    April 17, 2008 at 10:32 am |
  9. Taj

    This is another way of of wasting tax payers dollors. Why not move ladies & 419 children back to the church compound & bar all LSDS leaders from that location. This way the children will be with their Mom's & the perpetrators are kept away. This would make mom's & children happy. The Govt cannot think straight.

    April 17, 2008 at 9:39 am |
  10. Nikki

    When I first heard about this I was surprised that the state went in and took all the children over a phone call. It seemed a little drastic. BUT then I saw all these interviews with these mothers and I am glad that the children are out of there. Ironicly the mothers are on TV so they can get sympathy from the american public and have us stand up for them because the children have been taken away from their mothers. But all they are doing is showing us just how screwed up these communities are. These women seem to have no emotion and act as if they are robots. Its sickening to see a human being reduced to that. And all they say when the refer to their child is "the children". Does anyone else find it disturbing that that is how they refer to their sons and daughters? Like there is no emotional connection. What Texas did is not religious persicusion. Its saving innocent children from a bunch of freaking lunatics!

    April 17, 2008 at 8:10 am |
  11. patricia

    I hear so much information that it is difficult to dissern what exactly is true. Obviously polygamy is illegal but is it illegal for a number of women to live with one man outside of mariage and bear him multiple children? If not, this is a discriminatory situation.

    A form of this practice exists in the outside world where young males impregnate multiple females outside marriage and assume no responsibility for raising the children. This is a very grey area.

    Is it true that the State provides welfare payments to these women?
    The practice could be discouraged by refusing to provide these payments to a community that isolates itself from the rest of society and declines to work to earn income.

    How actually does the community earn money to purchase all of this land and buildings?

    April 17, 2008 at 4:06 am |
  12. Thelma Jones

    Is America breaking down? There is a saying that "who the gods want to kill, they first make mad". Trust me, I am not a polygamist nor do I think that FLDS is a right religion, but "please people", (1) how can you take children away from a family without serving each involved family with warrants (I don't mean, one warrant for the entire community, but a warrant for each mother involved – in fact, a warrant for each child involved) (2) how can you not read the crime of each individual to them before pulging into their lives (3) how can you arrest boys and girls (children) when only girls are "married underage"? As suspicious as a crime may be, I used to think that suspects are "innocent until proven guilty". Is America breaking down?

    April 17, 2008 at 4:00 am |
  13. steve

    I want to see justice. Put these polygamists behind bars so they can have their asses raped. They all deserve to rot in hell and burn for eternity. Our children deserve better in this life and no one can help them unless we take these molesters out of there. CNN needs to stand up and tell America that we will not tolerate any abuse against our children and that the women there need to get a grip on real life. 30 years in prison or the death penalty for them all no less!!!!

    April 17, 2008 at 3:35 am |
  14. L Hutchinson

    Polygamy is against the law. States that choose not to prosecute polygamists should lose their Federal funding. Upon release from prison, they should be deported upon proof of reconstituting a polygamist lifestyle. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Women who defy the law by participating in the lifestyle should be subject to punishment as well. In cases where they offered up their under-age daughters into "marriages", they are accessories to the polygamist's rape of that child. DNA testing of the children will prove parentage and the basis for prosecuting the men as polygamists. The current ages a mother and each of her children will prove whether she was under age when impregnated and add rape to the counts under which the polygamist will be tried. A man proven to maintain a household of multiple women with whom he has sexual relations and/or has fathered children with them should be convicted under the law as a polygamist.

    April 17, 2008 at 2:14 am |
  15. Brian

    Has anyone realized as I have that this is just a retirement plan for Warren Jeffs? All these women and children are living off tax dollars while the men give most or all of their earnings to this church. The men that give the most money are given the younger wives. The women and children live off of state dollars while Warren Jeffs lines his pockets. I'm certain that he doesn't pay taxes on any of it so the IRS needs to get involved. Take all of his money away from him and then see how smug he is.

    April 17, 2008 at 2:00 am |
  16. Robert

    The pictures look more like something you would expect to see in a communist run country.

    If you do not take the call at face value and look at it with a suspicious eye it is clear the call was fabricated

    Looking at the place I question if there is any or very few phones their

    If there was a call the ploice could easily pull the phone records for all phones on the compound and find out who it belongs to. I don't thank they want to because if their was no call this would look bad on them.

    April 17, 2008 at 1:57 am |
  17. Pam Sullivan - Sioux Falls, South Dakota

    I just finished watching Larry King Live and his interview with the polygamist mothers whose children were removed by the Texas authorities – These women are the Stepford wives!!!
    They all sounded the same – Their dresses were ultra conservative -Their hair was meticulously styled and they conveniently had their hankies in hand –
    They would only answer specific questions and were masters at evading questions that they didn't want to answer – particularly – questions regarding their husbands –
    Their ignorance of the law regarding polygamy was questionable –
    Marilyn deserves an Academy Award for her performance –
    I don't doubt that they, themselves are victims – however, by their silence, they are allowing themselves and their daughters to be sexual objects and baby making machines for their husbands, who are nothing more than sexual predators and pediphiles –
    I hope the Texas authorities order DNA testing on all of the children, the mothers and the fathers to start to sort out the twistedness of this very disturbing community –

    April 17, 2008 at 1:52 am |
  18. David Boggs

    I am not a Mormon and I do not approve of polygamy but it is absolutely rediculous that 416 children are removed from their homes on the basis of a single phone call from an unidentified 16-year old! Every appearance is that these kids are far healthier physically and socially than the average American child. Any parent should be furious at the prospect of an out-of-control government thinking its job is to take young children from their parents on the basis of a single phone call from an unknown person.

    April 17, 2008 at 12:48 am |
  19. James, Texas

    Texas CPS still acts like the Gestapo, and we the citizens of Texas have put the State Repres in office that control it and wont talk too us about it.

    April 17, 2008 at 12:34 am |
  20. Nancy Frazier

    Where does FLDS get money. how are they funded. Anderson follow the money.

    April 17, 2008 at 12:30 am |
  21. Charles Sterling

    Texas CPS can remove children from a home not only for abuse but also remove children who are at "RISK". The defining moment is not the removal by CPS, but when everyone goes to court. CPS has to present its' case and the judge (s) will make a ruling. CPS does what it has to do to protect the children of Texas. Sometimes it is successful and sometime it's not. The entire matter does not rest with CPS. The final decision is made by the ruling judge. The "Mothers" that appeared on your show and other news shows did appear deceptive and allusive, and this could be grounds for a ruling of Reasons-To-Believe (RTB) that the abuse did occur.

    April 16, 2008 at 11:33 pm |
  22. Kristi Carter

    I guess I don't understand these compounds enough, but I have to ask.. where are the fathers in all of this? I have seen all women on TV. Do they not show the fathers/talk to the fathers cause there are so few fathers for all of these women to go around? Call me stupid, what kind of church is this? I really wouldn't mind seeing what some fathers have to say about this!!

    Kristi Carter

    April 16, 2008 at 10:47 pm |
  23. Aiya Ono

    I think it's important to remember these women have lived in these communities their whole lives, this meaning, there is a good chance they have been brainwashed. The women obviously have less power in the community and simply do what the men are told and therefore have been abused. Thus I don't believe it was necessary or right for the officials to seperate the woman and children. Why not put women in children under one custody and put the men under another? I don't have a deep knowledge about the law, but I still think it was unnecessary for them to seperate the men and women.

    April 16, 2008 at 9:42 pm |
  24. Annie Kate

    I hope the legal system in Texas has enough proof to prove abuse or it will look like religious persecution as the FLDS ladies are saying. I don't care what religion they practice but I do want the children to be safe and to be allowed to be children. It was sad to hear that the children had never seen toys before and didn't know what a crayon was. I wonder what else the children have been deprived of and if these deprivations are just another sign that the children are just being raised to help with the chores and have more babies.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    April 16, 2008 at 9:35 pm |
  25. Edana Popp

    Dave in Central Park:
    HERE'S the outrage! I'm furious and can't comprehend why these compounds are allowed to exist as they are. Polygamy is illegal, yet we have 'communities' that are allowed to continue their practices. I've been searching the web for several days, and I can't find information about any concerted efforts to shut these operations down.

    Yes, where are Dr. Phil, Jesse Jackson, Adam Walsh, the Attorneys General of Arizona, Utah, Nevada, British Columbia?? Where are the Pulitzer-prize journalists?? Who's following the money??

    This is pedophilia under the guise of religion. It's about time that we shine a light, a bright, never-going-out light on these groups, until they are destroyed.

    April 16, 2008 at 9:30 pm |
  26. Barbara

    I am wondering why, in all the photos I have seen, there are never any older women-60, or older. What happens to these women as they age? If they become mothers at 13, 15, etc, are they just put aside as they age, when they are no longer "useful" to the men in the compound. Considering that a woman of 65 could technically be a great-great-great grandmother, how are they treated and why is it, we never see them? Where are they or should we be afraid to ask?

    April 16, 2008 at 7:43 pm |
  27. Kent, Illinois

    This will be the biggest fiasco of this kind in US history. The women are so brainwashed they don't know up from down. This is all about these people taking advantage of the Govt system and that is all. They cannot and will not prove abuse. Ohhhhhhh, the abuse is there, but they will not tell on their church members. Everyone will dummy up and the State of Texas will look foolish.

    April 16, 2008 at 7:34 pm |
  28. Jolene

    David: Despite the magnitude of this situation, the 350 lawyers who volunteered their services should be commended, especially now that there is a shortage in accomodations. Perhaps you can interview some of them, it would be interesting to get their perspective.

    Jolene, St. Joseph, MI

    April 16, 2008 at 6:44 pm |
  29. Slater

    All of this is alleged. Without the 16 year old girl they lack probable cause to remove these children, conduct investigations, press any charges or make any arrests. They can remove the children and keep them while they find "Sarah", but if she is not found, and the judge is not convinced that she in fact exists, these parents have the presumptive constitutional right to custody of their children, and they will, as a matter of law, have to be returned to the care and custody of their parents.

    This is irrespective of what they find in the course of this investigation. I am praying to the judicial God that they have done their due process homework, otherwise you will see many incensed tax payers as they watch the case get dismissed and the children returned home.

    April 16, 2008 at 5:41 pm |
  30. Carol B., Virginia

    The men and women are abusive, pathological liars and welfare cheats. While a FEW of the FDLS mothers and fathers may care about the children, it it blatenly clear that they care more about " maintaining the CULT status quo." I could not believe the nerve of the mother in her little house on the prairie dress, "Oh my, boo hoo, we are like the jews being persecuted by Hitler, boo hoo." There was no actual tears, only a very amature thespian performance. VERRRY rehearsed with little credibility. If it was a Broadway show, people would ask for their money back. The only ones who matter are these poor kids, who don't know any different. Two thumbs down!

    April 16, 2008 at 5:32 pm |
  31. Jill Roseville Michigan

    Carol, CA... There is no way to investigate further when they can not get access to the community. When they will Lie to protect their way of life knowing full well the young girls are being abused. One news report said they found 14 teenage girls (15 to 16 yrs old) Pregnant. They live in a compound where they don't date like our girls would or be hanging out and getting into trouble like some of our teens... so how did they get pregnant? Sick men making their own rules, using and abusing them. The women know its wrong or they wouldn't be so deceptive now.

    14 teenage girls pregnant is enough proof for me that molestation/rape is occuring. I have no sympothy for the adults. I used to say the wives were brainwashed as well... but ummm the blatent deception makes me wonder.

    April 16, 2008 at 3:29 pm |
  32. Dave in Central Florida.


    I do not particularly like what I know about the FDLS lifestyle, which is relatively limited to that of most outsiders and what we are reported on the news, but what on earth are we doing storming this compound, ranch, campus or whatever you want to label it as if it were filled with terrorists? These are american citizens and this is the course of action from an anominous phone call? Did anyone try knocking on the door first? What are we thinking? Where is Jesse Jackson, Dr. Phil, and other social leaders with respect to the treatment of our communities? If there are crimes against children going on at that facility, get to it, arrest someone, try them, not everyone, and act like a first world country doing it. No matter how we feel about it, we are a innocent until proven society.

    April 16, 2008 at 3:16 pm |
  33. Jill Roseville Michigan

    The deception of these women is maddening. When asked about their teenage daughters they say "its about the children". Do they not consider the teens as children? Sickening. The fact we know they have a polygamous marriage and they can't even answer that question honestly. Knowing that the men rule everything and that the women will be punished if they say something wrong, tells me we can not trust the testimony of the mothers. We already know we can not trust them to protect their children or there sons would not be disowned as they reach man hood and their daughters would NOT be pregnant, on a closed compound, under the age of 18. The media needs to do everything possible to not allow a sympothetic ear to the mothers. CPS for years have yanked children from homes and asked questions later when the children can feel safe to speak away from parents. With that said... The CPS workers better make sure none of them are asking leading questions that could lead these children to misunderstand because they are not familiar with the terms of the outside world.

    April 16, 2008 at 1:30 pm |
  34. Carol, CA

    After seeing the photos of the raid on this compound, the Texas authorities better come up with some rock solid evidence against these people or they are going to look like idiots.

    Those pictures of armored vehicles and police in riot gear were ridiculous. I don't think the soldiers in Iraq are equipped that way.

    A lot of old sayings come to mind while watching footage of the raid: "the road to hell is paved with good intentions"........"we had to burn the village in order to save it"....

    As an adult, I would be scared to death if they came into my neighborhood like that. Can you imagine how little kids would feel? Then to separate them from their mothers and keep them in a strange place with people they don't know! This is awful.

    There had to be a better way to investigate these rumors before taking such drastic action.

    April 16, 2008 at 1:20 pm |
  35. Katherine Duke

    Those women in the compound are in a harem and probably do not vote.
    They want women to rise up to favor them when they don't cherish the right to vote.
    They allow their sons to be excommunicated and keep the girls to be baby breeders. They receive welfare payments and lack husbands who support them and their children financially.
    It is wrong to excuse their breaking the law with pollygamy.

    April 16, 2008 at 12:50 pm |
  36. Douglas Irby

    I want to know and understand why you refer to the women in the compound as the "mothers" of these children when you talk about them on TV.

    There is no way possible you know these women to be the mothers of these children. That knowledge could not be determined without peternity tests. The likelyhood is that these are NOT the mothers of these under-age (some pregant) girls. Their mothers were left in Arizona and Utah when this compound was stocked with young girls, about four years ago, to serve as spiritual brides for the adult males in the compound.

    April 16, 2008 at 12:37 pm |