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Second Polygamist Sect Baby Born Into Texas State Custody

A mother taken from a polygamist sect and being held as a minor in state custody gave birth Monday to a baby boy who was immediately taken into child-protective custody.

State officials acknowledged the mother may be an adult, and said they were trying to determine her true age. Since state officials raided the sect's West Texas ranch on April 3, child welfare officials have taken custody of all its children on the grounds that they were endangered by the sect's underage and polygamous spiritual marriages.

A state district judge issued an injuction Monday preventing CPS from moving the newborn and mother from Travis County until a hearing Thursday, in which father Dan Jessop will request his wife and three children be released from state custody.

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Patricia Matassarin, Jessop's attorney, said the mother is 22 and should not be in state care as a minor.

Matassarin said CPS was struggling to place the mother and newborn late Monday because of possible exposure to chicken pox at an Austin shelter where other sect children are living.

She said Jessop told her the mother and newborn had been poised to spend the night in a CPS office, but were now set to sleep on air mattress in another home. Child Protective Services spokesman Patrick Crimmins did not immediately return a phone call for comment late Monday.

"She is 22," Matassarin said. "She could be in a nice motel room with her husband."

The boy is the second baby born in state custody since the raid.

Crimmins acknowledged Monday that the mother is among 27 girls whose ages are in dispute.

He said officials were reviewing documentation for those who claim they are of legal age, and will release them from state custody if they are adults. He added that he didn't know how long it will take to investigate their claims.

Rod Parker, an attorney and spokesman for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, accused state officials of deliberately holding a pregnant mother they to knew to be of legal age so they could take her baby into custody upon birth.

"They just wanted to keep the mother in custody until they could get the baby," Parker said.

Crimmins said sect members whose ages were in dispute were being kept in custody because sect members have given conflicting information about their names and ages.

"We didn't have documentation. The other thing, too, frankly, is the information we got ... changed over time," he said.

The new mother has filed a writ of habeas corpus to be freed from state custody.

The newborn's placement in state custody brought the total number of children taken from members of the renegade Mormon sect to 465.

He'll likely stay in state custody even if his mother is an adult. Like other mothers of children under 1 year, she would be allowed to stay with him in a foster-care facility, Crimmins said.

Child welfare officials and state troopers raided the FLDS's Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado after a domestic violence shelter received calls from someone claiming to be an abused 16-year-old girl. The girl has never been found and authorities are investigating whether the calls were a hoax.

Under Texas law, children under the age of 17 generally cannot consent to sex with an adult.

Church officials deny any children were abused and say the state's actions are a form of religious persecution.

FLDS broke away from the mainline Mormon church, which officially renounced polygamy more than a century ago.