Monday, April 21, 2008

DNA testing at polygamist ranch

Using cotton swabs and cameras, lab technicians began taking DNA samples Monday from hundreds of children and mothers — many in long, pioneer-style dresses — in hopes of sorting out the tangled family relationships within the West Texas polygamist sect.
A judge ordered last week that the genetic material be taken to help determine which children belong to which parents.
Authorities need to figure that out before they begin custody hearings to determine which children may have been abused and need to be permanently removed from the sect compound in Eldorado, and which ones can be safely returned to the fold.
State social workers have complained that over the past few weeks, sect members have offered different names and ages. Also, the children refer to all of their fathers' wives as their "mothers," and all men in their families as "uncles."
The testing went on behind closed doors at the crowded coliseum where the children seized in the raid earlier this month on the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are staying.
The collecting of DNA is likely to take 10 technicians most of the week, and it will be a month or more before the results are available, said Janiece Rolfe, a spokeswoman for the Texas attorney general's office.
Rod Parker, an FLDS attorney, acknowledged that family names within the sect can be confusing, but said: "No one is trying to deceive anyone. ... It's not sinister." Instead, he said that because many of the sect's marriages are not legal, adults and their children may legally have one name but use another within the community.
The April 3 nighttime raid on the 1,700-acre compound probably frightened the children, said Ken Driggs, who has studied the sect extensively. "If somebody had taken the time to approach them in a way that was respectful, they probably would have gotten the information they needed," Driggs said.
The children will be placed in group homes or other quarters until individual custody hearings can be completed by early June. Officials said they will try to keep siblings together when possible, though some polygamous families may have dozens of siblings.
The testing will involve 437 children and possibly hundreds of adults. State authorities revised their count of the children from 416 as they developed better lists and discovered that not all the female members who claimed to be adults were over 18.
The testing will be more far complicated than that of the typical custody or support case.
In a typical custody case, "maternity is already established," Rolfe said, but in this case, researchers will have to determine the identity of both parents.
Each person who submits to a test will be photographed, and the inside of his or her cheek will be swabbed to remove cells for analysis.
The DNA sampling is an enormous undertaking for a state that typically tests only 1,000 children a year.
Some of the adults have ordered by the state of Texas to submit to testing. Others are being asked to do so voluntarily. But how many will do that is unclear.
Parker said he is afraid authorities secretly intend to use the DNA to build criminal cases. But state Child Protective services spokesman Greg Cunningham said: "We're not involved in the criminal investigation. That's not our objective."
Authorities believe the sect forces underage girls into marriages with older men. No one has been arrested, but a warrant has been issued for member Dale Barlow, a convicted sex offender who has said he has not been to the Texas site in years.
One Complicated Custody Case!
A Texas judge ruled Friday that all children taken from a Texas compound run by a polygamist sect must undergo genetic testing. Child welfare workers said they have had trouble sorting out family relationships, in part because sect members gave evasive answers to their questions.
Judge Barbara Walther also ruled that the children will remain in state custody. Children 4 and younger, who had been allowed to stay with their mothers, will be separated from their mothers.
In other news, a guy is trapped in an elevator for 41 hours!
A time-lapse video of a man trapped in an elevator for 41 hours has become something of an Internet sensation after surveillance camera footage emerged after nearly a decade.
"After a certain period of time I knew that I was in pretty big trouble because it was the weekend," Nicholas White said Monday on ABC-TV's "Good Morning America."
Video of his Oct. 15, 1999, ordeal in an elevator in New York's McGraw-Hill building was posted online to accompany an article in the April 21 edition of The New Yorker. It can be seen on the magazine's Web site and had been viewed more than 280,000 times on YouTube by Monday morning.
White said he understood why the video has captured people's attention: So many have wondered what they would do if it happened to them.
Edited to a soundtrack of classical piano music, the video shows him pacing, trying to climb the walls, lying down, curled up in a fetal position, prying apart the doors. (He said he relieved himself down the shaft when the doors were open.)
White sued the managers of the midtown skycraper and the elevator maintenance company and won an undisclosed settlement.
He was a production manager for Business Week when he left his office about 11 p.m. Friday for a cigarette break. According to the article, it was never determined exactly why the elevator stalled though there was talk of a voltage dip.
Wow. That is just aweful with that man in the elevator. I heard the story this morning on Good Morning America. And I think I heard something like he had a small fear of elevators. Could you imagine being stuck in that position? He said that he did not like having to use elevators. But continued that when you live in Manhattan, you learn to just get over it. He said that the lights in the elevator were blinding. And that he had to cover his eyes with his wallet.
That is just an amazing story to tell. I can't believe he went through that. And all of that happened on a smoke break. So if he didn't smoke then he wouldn't have had that happen to him. Oh well. What's done is done. But now he has an amazing story to tell, and he has a video of himself online! Hoopah!

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