A Utah cult leader has pleaded guilty to charges of child rape and child abuse, as reported by Fox News.
Samuel W. Shaffer made the guilty plea on Wednesday — admitting to sexually abusing an 8-year-old girl — as part of a deal to get other charges dropped, including child kidnapping and additional abuse. This deal will also keep the unnamed victim off of the witness stand.
Shaffer is a cult leader in an organization he formed himself called Knights of the Crystal Blade, which distorts teachings of the Mormon church.
He used the group to cultivate child rape victims, going as far as to kidnap children and force them into marriage, according to Iron County Attorney Scott Garrett.
“We’re ecstatic about this plea, not only to hold him accountable with a 25-to-life sentence, but also to protect the child from being re-victimized,” Garrett said, in comments provided by USA Today.
In addition to that victim, police believe he sexually assaulted additional girls as young as 4.
Authorities say they found his 8-year-old victim in December, along with other alleged victims, hidden in barrels inside of a makeshift shipping container on land owned by cult members.
Shaffer also allegedly swapped victims with fellow Knights of the Crystal Blade member John Coltharp, with each of them marrying the other’s 8-year-old daughter, as previously reported by CrimeOnline.
Shaffer’s guilty plea will net him at least 25 years behind bars, though a sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled. The trial for Coltharp is still ongoing, with an evidence hearing scheduled for February 28.
[Featured Image: Samuel W. Shaffer/Iron County Sheriff’s Office]