Yearning for Zion Ranch in Texas empty 10 years after raid


ELDORADO, Texas (AP) — They kept to themselves, but everyone in town knew who they were.

The San Angelo Standard-Times reports members of the Fundamentalist LDS Church settled in a remote area near Eldorado, Texas, and isolated themselves on their self-built compound, the Yearning for Zion Ranch.

But it wasn’t the way they moved in that grabbed people’s attention. It was how they left.

“We figured out pretty quick that something was going to happen when you got about 75 or 80 (law enforcement officers) running around town,” said Michael Kent, manager of Kent’s Automotive shop in Eldorado.

After an anonymous tip alleging physical and sexual abuse of children prompted law enforcement to raid the ranch, a sudden rush of interest by news outlets put the small West Texas town — about 45 miles south of San Angelo with a population of roughly 1,700 people — in the national spotlight.

Authorities breached the ranch’s gates in April 2008. More than 400 children were taken from the ranch, resulting in the largest child custody case in U.S. history. They were later returned by order of appellate courts, including the Texas Supreme Court.

The YFZ Ranch is a 1,691-acre tract with space enough for a self-sustaining community and an orchard filled with trees of apples, peaches and pears.

Now empty, all that remains 10 years later is a towering white stone temple and numerous buildings, a majority that were used for housing.

The state of Texas seized the property in April 2013 after church leaders stuck by polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs’ “answer them nothing” order and did not contest the forfeiture filed by then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott in 2012.

Jeffs, who was known to visit the YFZ Ranch, is serving life plus 20 years in prison for raping two girls — one age 12, the other 15 — he had taken as polygamous brides. Jeffs must serve at least 45 years in prison before being eligible for release, at which time he will be 100 years old.

Abbott said the numerous cases of child sexual assault perpetrated on the ranch made the property “contraband,” and a default judgment of forfeiture was signed in January 2014 by 51st District Judge Barbara Walther in San Angelo.

Because the state is exempt from paying taxes on the property, Schleicher County has not collected tax money on the YFZ Ranch since its seizure.

“With the state taking it over, it really, really hurt,” longtime resident J.D. Doyle said. “Hurt this whole community bad. The state’s taken it over … and they haven’t done a damn thing with it for the most part of it, except let it rot.”

An experienced pilot, Doyle said from the air he could see the poor shape of the existing buildings made mostly of wood. He has flown over the ranch numerous times — often for media outlets wanting aerial photos of the property.

“The county’s losing taxes, the city’s losing taxes, the school’s losing taxes and the state is just letting it rot,” he said. “Plus, we’re still stuck with it because …read more

Source:: Deseret News – World News


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