Utah authorities saved four young girls and two boys on Monday after they found them hidden in a polygamist sect compound, reportedly after a Mormon “cult leader” hid them away for his friend, according to police.
Salt Lake Tribune reports that Samuel Warren Shaffer, 34, a “doomsday prepper,” is accused of hiding his friend’s his two young daughters, 8-year-old Dinah Coltharp and 4-year-old Hattie Coltharp, along with his own two daughters, in an Iron County compound. Authorities issued an AMBER Alert for the two Coltharp girls, but canceled it shortly after finding the children safe. Police reported they found Shaffer walking by himself around the Lund area, and found the children shortly after apprehending him.
According to Lt. Del Schlosser of the Iron County Sheriff’s Office, Shaffer was likely traveling with an accomplice, John Coltharp, the father of the two AMBER Alert girls, when the alleged kidnapping took place. Coltharp, also arrested, refused to reveal where he hid his children. Authorities offered to release him if he gave up the children’s whereabouts, but he reportedly remained mum. Family members feared Coltharp planned to “marry off” the two young girls.
Coltharp’s sister, Cindi Ray, said her brother “fundamentally” supports polygamy and is associated with Mormon beliefs. Together, Coltharp and Shaffer reportedly founded a religious group called the “Knights of the Crystal Blade.” Ray said that her Coltharp “said to all of [his] siblings in the past that girls are meant to get married at the age of 12 – their bodies are ready.”
According to the Denver Post, Ray’s husband told authorities that Coltharp previously said he would rather shoot his daughters in the head than allow the government to take them. Divorce papers provided by Coltharp’s ex-wife indicated that he also didn’t trust modern medicine and refused to allow to use pain medication during childbirth.
Police eventually found all four girls, visibly shaken but safe. They also found Coltharp’s two young sons, William, 7, and Seth, 6, at the compound. Both boys had also been reported missing.
“They were in good conditions,” said Lt. Del Schlosser of the Iron County Sheriff’s Office. “They were shaken, but as they got warmer, they became much more calm and talkative.”
All four children were taken to Cedar City Hospital for medical check-ups. The children complained of hunger while en route to the hospital.
Samuel Shaffer’s brother, Benjamin, said that his brother was innocent and was only looking after Coltharp’s children as a favor.
Shaffer remains behind bars on a $100,000 cash bond. He’s charged on “suspicion of two felony counts of child kidnapping and four counts of reckless child abuse.” Coltharp is behind bars with a $50,000 bail while detectives investigate the kidnapping.
[Feature Photo: Samuel Warren Shaffer/Iron County Sheriff’s Office]