AUSTIN — It sounded so genuine: a terrified voice of a young girl expressing fear that if rescued from a religious cult, blacks might harm her.
The calls to the Child Protection Project, run by a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, were recorded at the request of the Texas Rangers.
The Rangers wanted to know if the anonymous caller was the young girl whose outcry by phone on March 29, to a San Angelo crisis center triggered a massive raid two weeks ago on the breakaway Mormon sect's ranch outside Eldorado.
The search didn't produce the girl, but records seized at the polygamist site prompted state authorities to remove all 416 children from the ranch and seek termination of parental custody, now the subject of a legal drama in nearby San Angelo involving hundreds of lawyers.
The calls to the former sect member, meanwhile, led the Rangers to Colorado Springs, Colo., where police Wednesday arrested Rozita Swinton, a 33-year-old black woman.
She was charged with falsely reporting abuse to authorities in connection with a separate incident in Colorado Springs two months ago.
Texas authorities say Swinton is a person of interest in their search for the girl whose call prompted them to raid the Yearning for Zion Ranch.
Department of Public Safety officials declined to discuss the case as part of an ongoing investigation, but issued a statement Friday saying the Rangers accompanied Colorado Springs police to search Swinton's home for items related to previous false reports to authorities.
Officers found several items indicating a possible connection between Swinton and calls regarding FLDS compounds in Colorado City, Arizona, and the one near Eldorado.
The Rangers are "actively pursuing Rozita Swinton as a person of interest regarding telephone calls placed to a crisis center hotline in San Angelo," the DPS said.
A Colorado judge approved the Rangers' request to seal records in the case.
Child Protection Project founder Linda Walker and the Phoenix-based group's executive director, Flora Jessop, said Friday they were stunned when they learned the woman's identity.
"In her little baby voice, she said, 'If you rescue me, and I get out of here, do you think the black people will hurt me?' " Walker said. "She had done her homework. She knew it was a racist cult. We know that these kids are very frightened of black people.
"The Texas Rangers told us she was obsessed with the FLDS. They confiscated tons of material on the FLDS (in the search of Swinton's home). She even gave real addresses and real names of FLDS people."Woman, 33, also being investigated in Eldorado case
Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau
Walker and Jessop hesitated to say that Swinton was the person who called the Texas hot line to describe sexual and physical abuse by a 50-year-old husband at the ranch outside Eldorado, but they endorsed the resulting actions of Texas authorities.
"Regardless of who made these calls, the system worked exactly as it was supposed to work," said Jessop, a former FLDS member whose cousin, Merrill Jessop, runs the ranch.
"A call came into the hot line from a little girl who said she was being brutalized. They turned this information over to Child Protective Services and to the proper authorities. Those authorities went in and did their job," she said. "They found systemic abuse in there, which is what we have been saying for years."