Menu

ARCHIVE

Colorado Woman Possibly Linked to Calls That Prompted Raid of Polygamist Ranch

A Colorado Springs woman is being investigated as a "person of interest" in connection with telephone calls made to a Texas crisis center before authorities there raided a polygamist retreat, officials said Friday.

Rozita Swinton, 33, was arrested Wednesday by Colorado Springs police on a misdemeanor charge of false reporting to authorities. The arrest was related to an incident that occurred in Colorado Springs in late February.

But the Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed late Friday that two Texas Rangers were with Colorado officials when they searched Swinton's home. The Rangers took a statement from Swinton before returning to Texas without charging her.

During the search, officers found several items suggesting a possible connection between Swinton and calls regarding compounds owned by the renegade Mormon sect, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, in Colorado City, Ariz., and Eldorado, Texas, the Texas agency said in a release. The items weren't identified.

Click here for photos.

Click here for Maggie Lineback's On the Scene blog.

A Texas judge signed an emergency order earlier this month giving the state custody of 416 children living at the Eldorado compound. The order came after a 16-year-old girl called an abuse hot line in March claiming her husband, a 50-year-old member of the sect, beat and raped her. The girl has yet to be identified. Authorities raided the retreat on April 3.

The Texas agency said Swinton became a "person of interest" several days after the raid.

"The information, evidence and a statement obtained from Swinton by the Texas Rangers while they were in Colorado will be forwarded to state and federal prosecutors for their review and determination as to whether Swinton will be charged with a criminal offense," the statement said.

Swinton's Colorado case has been sealed by a judge. Gail Warkentin, the chief deputy district attorney for the 4th Judicial District, said the judge's name was not available because it is contained in the sealed documents.

The statement said Texas authorities persuaded the Colorado judge to seal the case.

A phone number listed for Swinton in Colorado Springs was disconnected.

Since March 30, Swinton has been talking to Flora Jessop, executive director of the Child Protection Project, a Phoenix-based organization that helps girls and women leaving the polygamous culture. A former member of the FLDS church, Jessop recorded nearly 40 hours of conversation with Swinton, who said her name was Laura, and contacted law enforcement.

"She claimed to be the twin sister of Sarah, who made the initial call in Texas," said Jessop.

Swinton got most of the details of the sect right, Jessop said. She knew specifics of the religion and culture, used common FLDS surnames and provided specific addresses of homes in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., where she said she was being held.

"She was good," said Jessop. "Apparently she was doing her research."

Other things — calling her parents "Mom" and "Dad" instead of "Mother" and "Father" as the FLDS do — were suspicious, Jessop said.

Jessop won't comment on whether she believes Swinton made the telephone call that triggered the Texas raid.

"I'm not going to speculate," she said. "I'm going to trust that the Texas authorities are doing their job."

Authorities in Colorado confirmed Swinton has a history of making false reports.

"This is the first time it rose to the level that she was ever charged (in Colorado Springs)," Lt. Arms said. "She has made false reports of distress-type calls in the past."

Her arrest in Castle Rock in 2005 came after she contacted an adoption center and authorities, claiming to be a 16-year-old name Jessica who was suicidal after giving birth.

Over the course of three days "Jessica" told the adoption agency she planned to leave her child at a fire station and use a gun to kill herself, Castle Rock Police Lt. Douglas Ernst said.

When authorities caught up to her, they learned her name was not Jessica and she did not have a child or a gun.

"The investigator ... was surprised at her age because she sounded like someone who was in mid to late teens even thought she was 30," Ernst said.