ELDORADO, Texas – A 32-year-old Nevada man drove 1,200 miles with a photo album of his children and said he would provide a DNA sample to Texas authorities Tuesday to prove paternity and get his three sons out of state custody.
David J. Williams, a former member of the FLDS polygamous sect, whose ranch was raided by authorities earlier this month, called the siege “an injustice” perpetrated by “unhonorable bastards.”
The boys – Parley, 9; Jacob, 7; and Teral, 5 – were among the 437 children rounded up after a Texas judge signed an order saying the children were exposed to a lifestyle that made them either perpetrators or victims of abuse.
The raid was sparked by calls to a domestic violence shelter by a teen who said she was being abused at the ranch. Investigators have not located the girl and are investigating whether the calls were a hoax.
Meanwhile, authorities launched an effort to conduct DNA screenings of children, mothers and fathers to determine family ties.
Parents who do not provide DNA samples risk being held in contempt of court, said Janice Rolfe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
The A.G.’s Office is supervising the collections and would make arrangements for parents in other states to be tested if needed, Rolfe said. “Distance would not be a roadblock to carrying testing out.”
The samples will be processed by the Laboratory Corp. of America at a cost of more than $50,000. Results will be available in 30 to 40 days, said Shari Pulliam, a spokeswoman for the Department of Family and Protective Services.
As Williams walked into a small building behind the Schleicher County Courthouse, where technicians were swabbing the mouths of adult FLDS members, he said he would do anything to “free” his sons.
“They are being held hostage by a state that seems to abuse power,” he said.
Williams left the FLDS three and a half years ago, but would not say why. About that time, his former wife, Marie, and their three sons moved to the Texas ranch. He insisted there is no abuse of children there.
“These children are very much loved and cared for,” Williams said, adding that he thought the raid was motivated by bias against the FLDS and their belief in plural marriage.
About two dozen FLDS men and women filed in and out of the building for DNA screening. The number appeared to fall short of the total adult population of the ranch. All declined to comment except for a man who identified himself only as Rulon. He said his six children, ages 1 to 9, are all in state custody.
He called the raid that took the children “an embarrassment to Texas.”
“We have nothing to hide,” he said after he had his mouth swabbed. “But this makes you feel like a criminal.”
Salt Lake City-based attorney Rod Parker, who represents FLDS families, on Tuesday accused Texas Child Protective Services of playing dumb about the children’s parentage.
Texas authorities have access to birth certificates, he said, noting that the DNA tests could have dual purpose in assisting with criminal prosecutions.
* Brooke Adams and Nate Carlisle contributed to this story.