Missing Girls Found in Raid on Cult Compound


Samuel Warren Shaffer (below), who purports himself to be a prophet and the head of the "Knights of the Crystal Blade" cult, was arrested as the result of an Amber Alert issued for Hattie Coltharp, 4, and Dina Coltharp, 8.

Two Utah men, one a self-styled prophet, were under arrest Tuesday after a search near a remote, makeshift compound turned up four girls whose fathers were in an upstart group with beliefs in polygamy and doomsday, police and relatives said.

The four Coltharp children had been missing since September.Mother Micha Soble, who filed for divorce and obtained sole custody of her children, said her husband had been excommunicated by the Mormon church before he went on to form the religious-survivalist cult a year ago.

Records don't list an attorney for Coltharp. His ex-wife was granted custody on November 27, but the search for them intensified when Coltharp was arrested and refused to reveal their location. He said Samuel Shaffer was not a polygamist or part of an established group and questioned the characterization of the area compound.

Once he had been apprehended by deputies, Shaffer provided law enforcement with the general location of two girls, Lily Shaffer and Hattie Coltharp, who were inside two blue plastic 50-gallon water barrels.

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In November, Utah voters broke the stranglehold of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), which had controlled the town of Hildale since settling there more than 100 years ago.

Coltharp and his wife Micha had been married about 10 years and shared four children, but the marriage was breaking up. "I'm so unbelievably happy to talk to my boys, and they are OK and so sorry for my girls, and it's so sad they are suffering and they don't have each other or their parents", she told CBS4. Johnathan Coltharp is now in the custody at the Sanpete County Jail.

Shaffer is accused of taking his own daughters and Coltharp's children and separating them to avoid being caught by authorities.

Then, on December 1, her ex-husband turned up at his parents' home.

"Micha believed her children were in the Iron County area somewhere near Beryl junction about 30 miles west of Cedar City", the release says. Shaffer was with him, but police didn't have anything to charge him with and let him go.

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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.

A tip led police to the storage building where they found the girls, reported KUTV. "[They] spent an estimated 24 hours inside the barrel in sub-freezing temperatures".

The Iron County Sheriff's Office says the girls were found "dehydrated and cold", per the Spectrum.

Shaffer was found that afternoon, walking down a road alone but the four girls remained missing. As of this afternoon at 5 p.m., her condition is unknown.

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