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Page last updated at 15:39 GMT, Thursday, 10 April 2008 16:39 UK

Texas sect temple 'used for sex'

Members of the sect stand outside Fort Concho, where the people removed are being housed
More than 500 women and children have left the sect's compound

Investigators searching the temple of a polygamist sect in Texas found a bed used by men to have sex with their under-age "wives", court papers reveal.

Girls as young as 13 were "spiritually married" to older husbands in the sect, investigators say, in a cycle of abuse.

More than 400 children and 130 women have been removed from the compound since it was raided on 3 April.

The sect's lawyers had sought to limit a search but have agreed temple records can be scrutinised under supervision.

A representative of the sect will be appointed to vet documents, computer files and family Bibles for records that should not be used as evidence for legal or religious reasons, the Associated Press reports.

The compound belongs to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), a breakaway branch of Mormonism.

Locked vaults

According to court papers released on Wednesday, the temple in the compound "contains an area where there is a bed where males over the age of 17 engage in sexual activity with female children under the age of 17".

Church built at the FLDS's compound in Texas (2005)
Troopers raided the FLDS compound after a girl called authorities

The bed had disturbed linen and what appeared to be a female hair, according to an affidavit signed by a Texas Ranger.

Investigators also found "multiple locked safes, locked desk drawers, locked vaults, as well as multiple computers and beds", the court papers said.

The search has turned up documents mentioning a 16-year-old girl who had four children and a man living at the site who has 20 "wives".

State troopers have also now completed a week-long search of the 1,700-acre grounds of the compound in Schleicher County.

Texan authorities currently have legal custody of 416 children, all of them believed to have been living at the ranch. They were taken to Fort Concho, an old frontier fort.

State troopers and officials moved in last week after a teenage girl phoned a domestic violence centre to say she had been abused at the 1,700-acre Yearn for Zion (YFZ) ranch.

In court documents released on Tuesday, investigators alleged a cycle of sexual and physical abuse of children by older men within the sect.

Jailed 'prophet'

The sprawling ranch is located about 160 miles (260km) north-west of the Texan city of San Antonio and includes large housing units, a medical facility and a temple.

Picture of Warren Jeffs taken after his arrest by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department
Warren Jeffs has led the breakaway Mormon sect since 2002

It has been under surveillance by the authorities since it was bought by the FLDS five years ago.

The sect's prophet is Warren Jeffs, a self-confessed polygamist who was jailed in Utah last year for being an accomplice to the rape of a 14-year-old girl who married her cousin.

The self-proclaimed prophet is currently awaiting trial in Arizona on separate charges of being an accomplice to four counts of incest and sexual conduct with a minor stemming from two arranged marriages.

His 10,000-strong sect, which dominates the towns of Colorado City in Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, split from the mainstream Mormon church more than a century ago.

Members believe a man must marry at least three wives in order to ascend to heaven. Women are taught that their path to heaven depends on being subservient to their husband.

Polygamy is illegal in the US.


video and audio news
People leave the sect ranch



SEE ALSO
Hundreds leave Texan sect ranch
08 Apr 08 |  Americas
US polygamy sect leader sentenced
20 Nov 07 |  Americas
US sect leader 'made girl marry'
14 Sep 07 |  Americas
Sex claims hit US polygamy sect
14 Jun 05 |  Americas

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