The woman suspected of making the hoax phone call that sparked the raid on the Fundamentalist LDS Church's YFZ Ranch may finally face trial in an unrelated case.
During a hearing in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Friday, a judge scheduled a May 19 jury trial for Rozita Swinton on a misdemeanor charge of making a false report. She is accused of calling authorities in February 2008, pretending to be a 13-year-old girl drugged, chained in a basement and being sexually abused.
According to court documents, the call triggered a door-to-door search until a mental health counselor told police it was Swinton, 34, who suffers from a multiple personality disorder. She has pleaded not guilty by reason of mental impairment.
Swinton's case has been delayed repeatedly since last year after she became a focus of the phone calls that led child welfare workers and law enforcement to the gates of the YFZ Ranch. She has been dubbed a "person of interest" in the investigation. Child Protective Services caseworkers and law enforcement responded to a series of phone calls from someone claiming to be "Sarah," a pregnant, 16-year-old trapped in an abusive, polygamous marriage to an older man.
"Sarah" was never found, but authorities said they traced phone numbers to Swinton, who has a long history of hoax phone calls with police. When Colorado Springs police arrested her, Texas Rangers were there. The Texas Attorney General's Office will only say its investigation is "ongoing."
Swinton's criminal cases in Colorado were put on hold while she underwent inpatient mental health evaluation. A court docket from Castle Rock, Colo., obtained by the Deseret News last week said Swinton was placed at a psychiatric hospital in Missouri. The last entry on the court docket said doctors had indicated her discharge date was "unknown."
Swinton's arrest in Colorado Springs put her in trouble with prosecutors in the Denver suburb of Castle Rock, where she was convicted in 2007 for misdemeanor false reporting. She struck a plea deal, getting probation and an order to undergo counseling and take prescribed medications.
The El Paso County District Attorney's Office could not say if her status had changed, prompting the judge to set a trial date. Swinton's attorney, David Foley, did not return a call seeking comment on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Texas Attorney General's Office had the original affidavits from Child Protective Services caseworkers unsealed. The agency is prosecuting the criminal cases against a dozen FLDS men on charges related to underage marriages at the ranch.
The two affidavits recite the original claims of CPS, including the phone calls from "S.J." to a San Angelo, Texas, family crisis shelter. It states that CPS quickly determined that her purported husband, Dale Barlow, pleaded no contest to criminal charges in Arizona accusing him of a purported marriage to a minor and he was sentenced to jail time, probation and is a registered sex offender.
CPS caseworker Ruby Gutierrez wrote in the affidavits that during a March 30 conversation, "Sarah" said her parents in Colorado City, Ariz., "were preparing to send her 15-year-old sister to live at the YFZ Ranch." "At the conclusion of this conversation 'S.J.' began crying and then stated that she is happy and fine and does not want to get into trouble and that everything she had previously said should be forgotten," Gutierrez wrote.29 comments on this story
In an affidavit filed two days after the raid began, Gutierrez wrote that while on the ranch, child welfare caseworkers observed "a number of young teenaged girls who appeared to be pregnant, as well as several teenaged girls who reported to the Department that they have already given birth and have their own infants," she wrote. "It appears that the culture and moral climate at the ranch is one in which young girls are conditioned to expect and accept sexual activity with adult men at the ranch. The Department has also been advised that children at the ranch are deprived of nutrition as a method of punishment, as well as being forced to sit in closed closets as a method of punishment," Gutierrez wrote, adding that children questioned were unable to give them their parents' names or their own birth dates.
The affidavits prompted a Texas judge to order the removal of all of the children. However, the 439 children were returned two months later when two Texas appellate courts ruled the state acted improperly, and there was no evidence the children were at immediate risk of abuse.