Texas seizes polygamous Yearning for Zion Ranch

6 May, 2014

Yearning For Zion Ranch 2008

Yearning For Zion Ranch 2008

Agents from the Texas Department of Public Safety have taken possession of Yearning for Zion (YFZ) Ranch, the FLDS compound, near Eldorado Texas on a court order from a petition from Texas Attorney General in November, 2012 , a 1,600-acre property in West Texas where multiple children were sexually assaulted by members of the FLDS. Online records from the Schleicher County Appraisal District indicate a dozen pieces of property at the ranch’s address that are owned by the trust and total 1,691 acres. Combined, the most recent appraised value of the properties is $33.4 million.
FLDS’s leaders illegally structured financial transactions to evade law enforcement oversight, and describes how Warren Jeffs personally toured the YFZ Ranch before subsequently authorizing its purchase. Based on a thorough financial audit of the FLDS’s bank accounts, the affidavit details how the purchase of the ranch itself and the construction of a massive compound on ranch property were financed with the proceeds of illegal money laundering.

[December 2 2013]
Texas moved a little bit closer to seizing the sprawling, polygamous Yearning for Zion Ranch. During a Nov. 4 hearing in Schleicher County, a pair of lawyers from the Texas Attorney General’s office told a judge they have served Isaac Steed Jeffs and Keith Dutson Sr. with papers relating to the state’s efforts to take the ranch, according to Texas AG’s spokeswoman Lauren Bean.

Officials still need to serve James Jerry Jessop. However, at the Nov. 4 hearing the attorneys told the judge they could not find Jessop and filed a “motion for substitute service.” Bean said the motion is used to serve papers to a person who cannot be located. It offers attorneys other options for serving papers and moving forward with the case, though Bean did not provide details about those options.

The judge granted the motion for substitute service but did not set a new hearing date.

[August 1 2011]
The state continued building its case against Warren Jeffs Monday afternoon, calling Texas Rangers who were involved in the YFZ Ranch raid to establish continuous custody of evidence and a former FLDS member to explain the significance of the documents.

Rebecca Musser, a former FLDS member, testified about the importance of record-keeping in the sect, saying individual members receive an enormous amount of training in religious doctrine. Musser said she was educated in the Alta Academy, a Salt Lake City institute where a generation of FLDS children was indoctrinated. Warren Jeffs taught and acted as principal at the academy from 1976 to 1998.
A DNA expert testified that Warren Jeffs is almost certainly the father of a male child born to the girl he is accused of sexually assaulting in 2005. Amy Smuts, called by the prosecution Monday, said DNA evidence provided 99.99996 percent certainty that the boy is Jeffs’ child. Prosecutors presented the testimony as proof that Jeffs had sex with the girl, who was 15 years old at the time.

Jeffs is charged with two counts of sexual abuse of a child.

The ecclesiastical head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints is standing trial before a Tom Green County jury of 10 women and two men after being extradited from Utah in November. The charges are based on evidence seized from the FLDS community in Schleicher County, the YFZ Ranch, in April 2008.

The allegations against Jeffs are that he had sex with a 15-year-old girl in 2005 and a 12-year-old girl in 2006 on the ranch after participating with each of them in “celestial marriages,” a ceremony unique to the FLDS that allows the sect to exercise its polygamous beliefs without running afoul of bigamy statutes.

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