Dateline | September 13, 2013
>>> but even behind bars warren jeffs was still very much in power and maintaining control over his lock, especially the flds community, which had recently sprung up in west texas . by this time the 1800 acre ranch and the sparkling new temple were complete. local law enforcement was keeping a close eye on the ranch , curious about it but also concerned about what was taking shape out there in the desert. texas ranger nick hanna.
>> west texas people are generally friendly and welcoming individuals. but there was certainly concern because texas has a history of having incidents, whether it be waco.
>> as it was under construction, the texas legislature changed the age at which a person could marry with parental consent from 14 to 16. rebecca heard about the ranch , too. she wondered if any members of her family had lived there. she checked with the local sheriff to see what he knew. nothing, it turned out. but he did begin using rebecca as a sort of interpret ter. he would call me periodically and ask me, can you tell me about this or what this means to them?
>> then on an early spring day in march of 2008 , authorities in nearby san angelo got a call from a woman who said her name was sarah barlow , claimed she lived at the ranch , was being abused and held at will against her husband.
>> she was a young girl . i think at the time of the phone call 16. she had already given birth to a child, and with her age, we were able to do the math and recognize that would have been a sexual assault of a child.
>> so what was the plan then?
>> to find sarah barlow .
>> on april 3rd , 2008 , the rangers, child protective services in tow, arrived at the rampbl.
>> and the women were in prairie dresses essentially. most of the buildings were constructed in like a log cabin type nature. and it almost seemed like you had gone back in time to a period that america left a long time ago.
>> whether the rangers knew it or not, they had just confirmed the worst fears of the nlsd faithful whose zombies preached the warning ever since the raid on the church in short creek way back in 1953 , a fact which some 1500 miles away rebecca knew very well.
>> to know that the lives of people that you love dearly. understanding the responsibility of the law is like two worlds crashing together and having a major explosion in front of me. it felt like i was being ripped apart.
>> and almost immediately it seemed to go wrong. instead of 300 to 400 people the rangers expected to find, there was something like 700. including more than 400 children and dozens of teenage girls . finding sarah was like looking for a needle in a hay stack.
>> it was a very confusing situation. most of these ladies dressed alike. they sounded alike. their hair was fixed the same. there was only about four or five very common names on the ranch . and so it was very difficult to differentiate who belongs to who and who is who.
>> then it got worse. s.w.a.t. teams arrived. snipers. even an armored personnel carrier . and while terrified residents cowerred, the rangers searched every house, media center , looking for the elusive sarah . nothing except --
>> we started seeing signs in plain view of other abuse. we saw young girls with babies and young girls or appeared to be young that were expecting. and during these interviews looking for sarah , evidence of other crimes became apparent pretty quickly. so now that we see them, we're duty bound to act. on these instances of child abuse or sexual abuse of young girls.
>> several of the girls interviewed by child protective services said they were spiritually yibted with adult men. that no age was too young for this, and it was the prophet who decided when and woman they should marry. the next day 18 girls were determined to have been abused or at imminent risk of abuse, and were removed from the ranch . and then over the next few days dozens more children, some very young , were forcibly removed from their parents and taken to temporary housing.
>> my 2-year-old son was screaming, mother, don't let them take me. don't let them take me. i want to stay with you, mother. mother, please hold me.
>> and then four days after the raid began, a court order was issued to take away all the remaining children until a better assessment could be made of the what was going on inside the flds ranch . this time mothers, but not fathers, were allowed to go with them.
>> they had been predispositioned to believe that anyone from the outside was evil. we had no desire to go onto the ranch for any reason other than the call. you can't ignore a young girl 's cries for help. you've got to act.
>> some of the mothers and children who had been separated were reunited at a makeshift shelter. eventually all of them were transferred to an overburdened sports arena here. and many flds members young and old were required to line up and submit samples of their dna, and then scores of toddlers and children were shipped off to foster homes around the state. some of them hundreds of miles away to live with families whose cultures they did not know, for how long they did not know. the state said it was for their protection.
>> this is about children at imminent risk of harm. children we believe had been abused or neglected.
>> the images set off a fire storm of controversy. former flds attorney rob parker .
>> what the state did in traumatizing the entire community and all those children, that was wrong. what texas should have done is taken a more targeted approach. not just to sweep up everybody. we didn't particularly enjoy it either. nobody likes taking a child out of its environment. but the law is the law and the court spoke and said the court is in danger. and so we had to do what we had to do.
>> there was still no sign of the mysterious sarah barlow , whose call had prompted the raid and all that followed. the rangers did, however, find files of birth records. but untangling the web of names and bloodlines was overwhelming, if not impossible.
>> you were essentially learning an entire network of community or people. they all have similar names. they all look the same. they all dress the same. they all act the sap.
>> they needed somebody to tell them what it all mentd, crack the code, unravel the secrets. an expert who knew it all from the inside.
>> and finally he said, we are in over our heads. can you please come down and help us? and so i did.
>> and what she exposed deep inside the ranch was a very dark and carefully guarded secret about a religion and its prophet, warren jeffs .
>> coming up, investigators make a