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Phone number links woman to sect case, document says

  • Story Highlights
  • Rozita Swinton, 33, was arrested this month on charge unrelated to ranch
  • But Texas Rangers have said she is a "person of interest" in sect case
  • Court record: Swinton is connected with phone number that brought attention to sect
  • Caller identified herself as a 16-year-old girl who claimed abuse by sect member
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(CNN) -- One of the telephone numbers used to report claims of abuse at a polygamist sect's Texas ranch was previously associated with a Colorado woman whom authorities have named a "person of interest," a court document says.

Rozita Swinton, 33, has been arrested in a case that is not directly related to the Texas raid.

The telephone calls in late March prompted authorities to raid the Yearning For Zion (YFZ) Ranch in Eldorado, Texas, where 437 children were removed.

The ranch is owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a Mormon offshoot that practices polygamy.

Rozita Swinton, 33, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, was arrested this month on a charge of making a false report to police.

The charge relates to an incident in February, but the Texas Rangers have said she is a person of interest in connection with the ranch calls.

In the February incident, Swinton is accused of calling authorities using the names "Dana Anderson" and "April," reporting abuse by male relatives, according to an affidavit in support of an arrest warrant.

Authorities have not clearly said that they think Swinton made the March phone calls that prompted the raid. But the affidavit says she is "known to make false reports of sexual abuse to the police and other agencies." Video Watch how a hoax may be behind the ranch mystery »

Calls were made to a Texas family shelter March 29 and 30 from a female identifying herself as Sarah Barlow, the affidavit says.

The caller said she was 16, had a baby about 8 months old and was pregnant again. She said that her 49-year-old husband was physically and sexually abusive toward her and that they were living at the YFZ Ranch.

The phone calls were made from a prepaid cell phone with no available records, according to the affidavit. However, it has been used in other cases linked to Swinton, the document says.

Although Texas officials said they have not found the woman who made the calls, they said they have found evidence that girls as young at 13 are forced into marriages with older men at the ranch.

The FLDS has denied that any abuse takes place at the ranch.

The woman identifying herself as Sarah Barlow also called a battered women's shelter in Snohomish County, Washington, using another phone number, the affidavit says.

That phone number was traced to Swinton's address, the affidavit says.

On April 10, the woman called the Washington shelter again and was put on the line with a Texas deputy. She said she felt that she would be punished for the trouble she had caused, was worried that her baby might be taken away and was angry with a woman she had contacted March 29 for prompting the raid by law enforcement.

During that conversation, the affidavit says, the woman used terminology common to the FLDS, referring to her "sister wives," for instance.

The phone number used in the Washington call was traced to the Colorado Springs apartment where Swinton lives, the affidavit says. The number was also used to call a Utah organization for women escaping polygamy and an abuse counseling center in Fort Myers, Florida, phone records showed.

Swinton pleaded guilty to a charge of false reporting in June 2007 and was under a 12-month deferred sentence, the affidavit says.

At a custody hearing last week, a Texas judge ruled that the state will temporarily retain custody of the 437 children removed in the raid.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday evening, laboratory workers at San Angelo Coliseum completed taking DNA samples from mothers and children, said Janice Rolfe, a spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office.

She did not say how many samples were taken.

About 100 of the seized children from whom swab DNA samples had already been taken were bused Tuesday from the San Angelo Coliseum to group foster homes, the Texas Department of Health and Family Services said.

On Wednesday, workers in Eldorado continued to take voluntary DNA samples from adults who live on the YFZ Ranch, Rolfe said.

Rolfe said that at least 54 samples from adults have been taken there.

The DNA samples will be sent to Laboratory Corporation of America, based in Burlington, North Carolina. It could take longer than a month to get results.

Judge Barbara Walther, who last week ordered the DNA testing of the children and ordered that they remain in state custody, signed an order this week authorizing the children's move to foster care, officials said.

At a meeting Wednesday afternoon, Walther and the state's Child Protective Services Division agreed that 18 mothers with breast-feeding babies that are 1 year old or younger will be allowed to stay with their children in the homes where the children are placed.

Also, 23 mothers with 28 children ages 1 to 2 years will be allowed to stay in the same towns as their children.

The remaining children, 2 to 18 years old, will be split up into available homes.

The original order signed by Walther called for every effort to keep siblings together, especially in the case of small children.

Rod Parker, a spokesman for the FLDS families, blasted the action in a news conference from his Salt Lake City, Utah, office.

"The CPS department of Texas is afraid of due process," he said. "They would lose in a fair fight in this case, and that is why you're seeing them move so quickly, and that is why you're seeing them move unilaterally."

He said the court ignored motions asking that the children be placed with their relatives.

The FLDS launched a Web site this week to promote its side of the issue. The site, captivefldschildren.com, contains photos and videos taken inside the ranch during the raid.

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The site says donations are needed to help cover the "massive litigation costs associated with these lawsuits."

A link on the Web site allows online donations. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN correspondent Susan Roesgen and journalist Cheryl Getty contributed to this report.

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