Polygamists arranged marriages as young as 13

Polygamist hearing resumes today, the largest child custody case in American history, is underway in San Angelo, Texas.

Police said a 16-year-old girl who called saying she had been abused by an adult male sparked the raid. Now the parents and the state of Texas are battling over custody of the 416 children.

Thursday was the first day of hearings for a polygamist sect fighting for its children. Texas Child Protection Services took the 416 children from the sect’s ranch during a raid earlier this month.

The children were taken from their parents in a raid on a West Texas polygamous sect two weeks ago. The state alleges that they were abused.

The hearing descended into farce yesterday, with hundreds of lawyers in two packed buildings shouting objections and the judge struggling to maintain order.

By evening, only three witnesses had testified, including state child welfare investigator Angie Voss.

Voss testified that at least five girls who are younger than 18 are now pregnant or have children. She also said some women at the ranch may have had children when they were minors, some as young as 13.

Witnesses of the sect say it arranges marriages for girls as young as 13, and that competition for brides may be reduced through exiling young men. However, Fundamentalist LDS ranch followers deny any abuse is occurring at the ranch.