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Colorado woman called 'person of interest' in YFZ Ranch investigation

AUSTIN -- Texas law enforcement officials confirmed Friday that they are investigating a 33-year-old Colorado woman in connection with telephone calls that prompted this month's seizure of more than 400 children from a polygamist compound near San Angelo.

Rozita Swinton was taken into custody at her home Wednesday night after the Texas Rangers told Colorado Springs police that they were in the city as part of their investigation into reports of ongoing child abuse at the YFZ (Yearning For Zion) Ranch near Eldorado in West Texas.

Rangers and Colorado Springs police executed a search warrant related to false reports Swinton was suspected of making to authorities in February. During the search, officers found items indicating a possible connection between Swinton and calls regarding the FLDS compounds in Colorado City, Arizona and Eldorado, according to a news release issued Friday by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Officials described Swinton as a "person of interest" in the late-March telephone to a San Angelo crisis center hotline that prompted the investigation of the ranch.

"The information, evidence and a statement obtained from Swinton by the Texas Rangers while they were in Colorado will be forwarded to state and federal prosecutors for their review and determination as to whether Swinton will be charged with a criminal offense," DPS spokeswoman Tela Mange said in the release.

The warrant affidavit for Swinton was ordered sealed, prohibiting authorities from discussing the case in detail, officials said.

The Denver Post, meanwhile, reported in its online edition Friday that a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the breakaway Mormon sect that built the YFZ Ranch, said Swinton had called her on March 31 pretending to be an abused teen-ager named "Sarah."

The woman, Flora Jessop, said it might have been the same "Sarah" whose call two days earlier to a hot line for abused women in San Angelo set in motion the chain of events that triggered the seizure of 416 children from the ranch. Authorities so far have been unable to locate the girl who made the call claiming to have been beaten and raped while pregnant by her 50-year-old husband.

"It does kind of indicate (Swinton) made those calls," Jessop told the Post, adding that Swinton sounded "very convincing" and was familiar with the sect's culture. "There was no press on it at the time."

According to the Post, Swinton had also been arrested in February on charges of falsely phoning in reports claiming to be an abused child being held in a basement in Colorado Springs. The newspaper, citing Colorado Bureau of Investigation records, also reported that Swinton had been arrested on a fugitive warrant in connection with another false reporting case.

Colorado Springs police Lt. Arthur "Skip" Arms said Swinton posted bond and was released from jail Thursday morning.

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