There aren’t many Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) left out at the Yearning for Zion ranch in West Texas these days, but any lingering members will probably feel inclined to leave. The Texas Attorney General has just filed an affidavit and seizure warrant to the 51st State District Court in order to pursue seizure of the 1,600-acre ranch where an elite group of polygamists once took orders from the convicted felon Warren Jeffs.
In an email sent to reporters this morning, the Attorney General’s office states that “Under Texas law, law enforcement authorities can seek to seize property that was used to commit or facilitate certain criminal conduct.” In this case, the A.G. cites crimes including money laundering, sexual assault, and harboring a fugitive. (Warren Jeffs stayed on the property while he was on the FBI’s most wanted list.)
But what would the state see if they are successful in their seizure? The land seems mostly empty these days, and one would assume the FLDS didn’t leave any valuable information behind. J.D. Doyle, a pilot who has been flying over the property since the group began building out there in 2004, told me this morning, “I flew out there about four days ago—my dad did yesterday—and all the big equipment was gone. Seven concrete trucks were parked horizontally, not functional. The houses looked abandoned except for two that had vehicles out front.” The construction plant, he said, was empty.
The pilot told me that the exodus began a few months ago. First the men went with the heavy equipment, leaving major construction projects such as a tower and an ampitheater destroyed or unfinished. The women and children followed shortly thereafter. You can see the pilot’s aerial photographs here.