The massive raids on the polygamist ranch in West Texas were sparked by phone calls from a teenage girl in the compound who said she had been sexually abused and forced to marry a man far older than her. However, the phone calls have been traced to a 33-year-old woman in Colorado who has a history of making false sexual abuse claims, reports the Washington Post:
The affidavit says calls that allegedly came from "Sarah Barlow" -- a teenage girl at the Yearning for Zion Ranch outside Eldorado, Tex. -- actually came from numbers connected to Rozita Swinton, 33, of Colorado Springs. The affidavit also notes Swinton's possible involvement in a series of separate but similar reports in which the young caller described being abused by a pastor, an uncle or her father.
Texas authorities yesterday said they have not determined whether the calls about the Yearning for Zion Ranch were a hoax and that they plan to press on with their investigation of possible sexual abuse there. More than 400 children are now in state custody, as authorities try to sort out what happened at the ranch run by a polygamist group called the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
But the revelations about phone calls to shelters for abused women in Colorado, Washington, Utah, Arizona and Florida cast doubt on the dramatic scenario that led Texas authorities to investigate and ultimately to raid the compound April 3. The raid made the insular sect the subject of one of the most complex child-custody cases in recent U.S. history.
The women gave an interview to the Today Show where they denied any claims of sexual abuse. Watch the interview here.
Read more about the polygamist compound.