Besieged Polygamists Let Cops in Temple

Texas authorities removed 200 women and children from a polygamist compound.

ByABC News via logo
February 12, 2009, 1:30 PM

April 6, 2008 — -- Law enforcement authorities were able to enter a west Texas polygamist compound to search a temple for a 16-year-old girl after an initial tense standoff Saturday.

Though 219 women and children were taken by bus from the compound this weekend, the teenage girl, whose report of abuse led to the raid, still is unaccounted for in Eldorado, Texas. She is allegedly married to a 50-year-old man with whom she has had a child.

Initially, leaders refused to let police enter the compound and authorities feared the worst case scenario and brought in ambulances.

Authorities now are trying to find foster homes for dozens of young girls they removed from the 1,700-acre gated compound, which is part of Warren Jeffs' polygamist sect. At least 18 girls are being held in state custody as police interview the women as part of the investigation.

"Those are the ones that we believe have been abused, or they are in imminent risk of harm, imminent risk of being abused," said Marlene Meisner of Texas Child Protective Services.

Former sect member Carolyn Jessop said even though the women have been removed, the mind control the sect has exerted on them will be difficult to remove.

"I'm thinking they're probably incredibly confused right now, especially the young ones," Jessop said on "Good Morning America Weekend Edition" today. "There's a lot of mid control here and just layers and layers that authorities have to get through to get to the truth."

Jessop, who was forced to marry the head of the Texas compound, Merrill Jessop, as a teen when he was in his 50s, said the women in the group experience physical, emotional and psychological abuse, and they may be wary of outside help because they are taught everyone in the mainstream is evil.

In fact, she said after she conducted her secret overnight escape five years ago with her eight children one of whom was on a feeding tube it took them three years before they could even begin to talk about what happened.