Prosecutors revealed on Friday that two Utah men who believe in polygamy and doomsday had sexually abused young girls after conducting secret marriages they likewise believe were “ordained by God.”
Both men believed they were “married” to two girls, ages only 4 and 8. One of the girls was even related to the men. The two men are part of a group named Knights of the Crystal Blade and they even created a remote, makeshift compound from shipping containers in the southern Utah desert.
Prosecutor Kevin Daniels said 33-year-old John Coltharp was charged this week with child sodomy, a month after police found four girls hidden in 50-gallon plastic water barrels and an abandoned trailer when they carried out a raid on the said compound.
The other man, 34-year-old Samuel Shaffer would also be charged. However, authorities are still investigating the case and trying to establish the full extent of the abuse.
The men were charged last month with child kidnapping and other counters after the raid conducted 275 miles south of Salt Lake City.
Sheriff’s deputies were sent to the area with helicopters and dogs in tow after the mother of two of the girls reported them missing, along with two of her sons.
The boys were also found in the makeshift compound. The girls were located only a day after because Shaffer had hidden them horrifically in the barrels and trailer. The girls were only found after he was arrested and finally disclosed the girls’ location.
The children were treated after their harrowing experience. They were checked physically for the effects of cold and symptoms of dehydration. They are now recovering.
Police shared that Shaffer and Coltharp became friends and bonded over a shared interest in arcane Mormon ideas long abandoned by the mainstream church.
The child marriages happened in summer 2017. After the marriages, the pair decamped to the desert in mid-September to prepare for what they believed would be an apocalypse and in the hopes of gaining followers as well.
Daniels said the two were actively recruiting and wanted to build the group up.
Search warrants made public this week also reveal that a man in California saw the men’s writings online and traveled to Utah to join them, enticed by the promise of a child bride awaiting him.
Daniels said the police also found weapons in the compound. He described the pair as “extreme individuals with extreme beliefs that believe the end of the world is coming. "
The authorities’ interventions prevented the poor girls victimized by the pair "from dying or repeating a Waco-style shootout.”