As some of the parents of the 416 children that Child Protective Services removed from a West Texas polygamist compound looked on, 51st State District Judge Barbara Walther tried her best to maintain control over the April 17 hearing. But with 300-plus attorneys involved in the CPS removal cases, it was a difficult task. Attorneys representing the parents as well as lawyers serving as ad litems for the children all wanted to ask questions of the witnesses presented by government lawyers.

The children were removed from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints‘ “Yearning for Zion” ranch in Eldorado after Texas Department of Public Safety officers began a search on April 3. The search was launched after a 16-year-old girl living on the ranch called a local family violence shelter to report that her 50-year-old husband allegedly beat and raped her. CPS has not yet identified the girl. The girl was 15, and her husband was 49, at the time of their “spiritual marriage,” as alleged in one of the removal petitions.

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