SAN ANGELO, Texas – Texas law enforcers met Saturday in Utah with the man accused of abusing the 16-year-old girl whose call for help triggered a raid on the West Texas compound of a secretive polygamous sect.
Dale Barlow, 50, of Colorado City, Ariz., has denied allegations of physical and sexual assault made in a whispered March 29 telephone call to a Texas domestic violence hot line.
Tela Mange, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, offered few details of the interview between Barlow and Texas Rangers.
"We have not made an arrest in this case and may not necessarily make one today," she said.
A telephone message left at Barlow's home by The Associated Press was not immediately returned.
Barlow has said he doesn't know the girl, whom Texas child welfare officials have not yet located.
In her phone call, the girl said that she was pregnant with her second child and that her husband beat her about the head and chest when angry. She said she was trapped and not allowed to leave the Yearn for Zion Ranch in Eldorado.
The ranch is owned by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, whose members believe practicing polygamy will bring exaltation in heaven.
The faith's members have traditionally made their homes along the Arizona-Utah border, but in 2003 purchased the 1,700-acre former game preserve about 40 miles south of San Angelo.
Barlow spent 45 days in the Mohave County, Ariz., jail last year after pleading no contest to a charge of conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor. He is a registered sex offender on probation and can't leave the state without permission. Bill Loader, his probation officer, has said he saw Barlow in Arizona a day after the Texas raid.
Friend Walker, chief of the Mohave County probation office, said the Saturday meeting with Barlow lasted about 90 minutes. Barlow has complied with all the terms of his probation and has never sought permission to leave Arizona, Walker said.
"He has not ever been given a travel permit to go to Texas," Walker said.
Child welfare officials seized 416 children, most of them girls, in the raid on the compound, saying the youngsters were in danger of physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
Some 139 women from the ranch left voluntarily to be with the children, who are now housed in San Angelo's historic Fort Concho and at the nearby Wells Fargo Pavilion. Officials have said they are having difficulty identifying some of the children.
Hearings to sort out the custody issues for the children are scheduled for Monday and Thursday.
The Texas legal community is responding to the challenge of recruiting as many as 350 court-appointed lawyers for the children in advance of Thursday's hearing. Texas State Bar President Gib Walton said the group has already conducted free legal training for volunteer lawyers so that each child can have representation.
"This type of mobilization is unprecedented; there's no doubt about it," Walton said. "We're very proud of the way that Texas lawyers have rallied to the situation," he added.
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• What's Next for the Polygamist Compound Children?