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Rangers talk with polygamist ranch suspect

  • Story Highlights
  • Authorities "have made a mistake" in suspecting Barlow, attorney says
  • The meeting with Dale Evans Barlow took place in St. George, Utah
  • "He was allowed to go, and no arrest was made," probation official says
  • Barlow is suspected of sexually abusing a teen girl at a Texas polygamist ranch
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ELDORADO, Texas (CNN) -- Texas Rangers on Saturday met with -- but did not arrest -- the man accused by a teenage girl of physically and sexually abusing her at a polygamist compound.

Arizona probation officials said the meeting with Dale Evans Barlow, 50, happened just across the Arizona state line in St. George, Utah.

"The Texas Rangers met with him. He was allowed to go, and no arrest was made," said Friend Walker, director of the Mojave County, Arizona, probation office.

Barlow's attorney, Bruce Griffen, said the meeting was voluntary.

He said he and Barlow are working to gather evidence that his client could not have been in Texas when the crimes are said to have happened.

"We shook hands; we left," Griffen said outside Barlow's home in Arizona. Video Watch Griffen comment on the accusations »

"They're doing their thing; we're doing our thing. We may meet again. But at this point, Dale is not being arrested, and we are working cooperatively with them, and we made very clear to them that they have made a mistake."

Authorities in Eldorado, Texas, raided the YFZ (Yearning For Zion) Ranch on April 3 after a 16-year-old girl there told a family violence shelter that she had been beaten, choked and forced to have sex with an adult man with whom she had an 8-month-old child after their "spiritual marriage."

In a series of phone calls, the girl -- who identified herself as Sarah -- said her "spiritual husband" was named Dale Barlow and gave Barlow's approximate age.

Griffen said his client has not been to Texas since 1977 and may have been named in a case of mistaken identity.

Barlow served 45 days in jail and is on three years of probation after pleading no contest last year to charges of conspiracy to have sex with a minor.

Authorities entered the compound last week with a warrant for Barlow's arrest.

The ranch is run by founder Warren Steed Jeffs' Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a rogue branch of the Mormon church. State officials removed 416 children, most of them girls, from the ranch during the nearly week-long raid. Two men were arrested: one for interfering with police officers and one for tampering with evidence.

Officials believe that the girl who made the phone calls is in their custody, but they have not identified her because she may be too scared to come forward, said Marleigh Meisner, a spokeswoman for the state Child Protective Services Division.

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Law enforcement officials and state child welfare workers said in court documents that they found evidence of a widespread practice at the ranch of forcing girls as young as 13 years old to enter "spiritual marriages" with adult men as soon as they reached childbearing age.

Among the evidence was at least one bed inside the sect's temple that the men are said to have used to have sex with the girls immediately after their wedding ceremonies. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Gary Tuchman and Amanda Townsend contributed to this report.

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