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Butchered zebras, buffalo, and lion found on Mexican ranch where US polygamist leader was arrested

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Officers arrested 26 people during a raid at Rancho El Negro. (Image source: YouTube screenshot)

Orson William Black Jr. is being held in the Mexican border state of Chihuahua, along with his four wives and 22 others, who were arrested following a police raid over the weekend.

Dozens of Mexican police officers in a joint operation with the FBI raided the "El Negro" ranches as part of an investigation into the murder of three young men found shot and killed in the region in September, Sky News reported. The ranches are in a separate part of a Mennonite Christian colony established in the early 1920s.

Who is Orson William Black?

The 56-year-old man, who allegedly leads a sect named "La Comuna," according to Sky News, is wanted in the U.S. on human trafficking charges and pedophilia charges. The polygamist sect leader is charged with having sex with two teenage girls, whom he allegedly took as his wives and impregnated.

Black, a former Warren Jeffs follower, fled the country soon after charges were filed against him in Arizona in 2003. It's believed that he settled at "El Negro" shortly after escaping the U.S. and started his own polygamy sect on the ranches that are contained in a separate part of a Mennonite Christian colony established in the early 1920s.  

Warren Jeffs, 61, the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is imprisoned in Texas where he's serving a life sentence for sexually assaulting two underage girls he had married. 

Black, who is believed to have settled in Mexico as early as 2003, was featured on a 2006 episode of "America's Most Wanted."

What charges do they face?

He and the others are charged with animal cruelty and entering Mexico illegally, Sky News reported. 

More than four dozen animals were found butchered and frozen across five properties on the ranch. The animals included buffalo, zebra, and lion, according to BBC News. It was not immediately clear where the animals came from or their intended use.

Witnesses told Sky News they also saw Drug Enforcement Agency officers on the scene.

The other 26 people detained on Black's properties are facing extradition to the U.S., according to the BBC report.

What about the murders that led the police to raid the ranches?

Black is considered a suspect in the Sept. 10 killings of Michael Black, 15; Robert W. Black, 19; and Jesse L. Black, 23. It's not clear if Black is related to the murdered men.

The U.S. Consulate got involved in the investigation when Chihuahua State Attorney General's office discovered the men found murdered Sept. 10 did not have birth certificates.

What else is important about this story?

In a special edition of "Anderson Cooper 360°: Tracking a Fugitive" on July 6, 2006, it appears U.S. officials may have known Black had fled to Mexico and started his own group of polygamists.

The episode focused on tracking Warren Jeffs also featured the child sex charges against Black. Cooper said Black considers himself a prophet.

"He's a pedophile, he preys on adolescent girls, has a whole string of young brides, 13, 14 years of age. It's high time that they're looking for him," Mike Watkiss told Cooper. Watkiss is an investigative reporter at KTVK-TV in Arizona and has followed Black's case for years.

"We've tracked him down on two occasions. We wondered why local cops couldn't do it. We tracked him all the way to Mexico," he told Cooper.

It's not clear why Black hasn't been arrested until now.

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