SALT LAKE CITY – Two Utah men, one a self-proclaimed prophet, were arrested Tuesday after a search in the vicinity of a remote, makeshift compound selected four girls, of whom the father in an upstart group with beliefs in polygamy and doomsday, the police and the family said.
The police said that two of the girls were considered to be the kidnapping victims after their father dropped off the grid with them and their two brothers in the middle of September.
The four girls in the age group of 4 to 8 were found cold and dehydrated, but unharmed, two in the 50-gallon drums of water and two others were in an abandoned mobile home, after deputies combed the desert on Monday, Iron County Sheriff’s Lt. Del Schlosser said. The boys were found at the compound earlier Monday.
John Coltharp, 33, disappeared with his two daughters and two sons in mid-September after a meeting with Samuel Shaffer, 34, who also had two daughters, police said. They called themselves the Knights of The Crystal Knife.
The disappearance touched off a desperate search by Coltharp’s ex-wife, which ended in an Amber Alert for the two girls and the arrest of two men on suspicion of kidnapping and other charges. Coltharp was not formally charged Tuesday, and no attorney or listed phone numbers were immediately available for him.
Shaffer, described as a self-proclaimed prophet, was charged Tuesday with child kidnapping and other counts. He has not yet have a lawyer listed in the court documents.
His brother, Benjamin Shaffer, said his family has been traumatized by the revelations. He said Samuel Shaffer was not a polygamist and remain a or a part of a group and questioned the characterisation of the area compound.
Coltharp had always been interested in the mysterious Mormon doctrine, but his interest in polygamy and “styling” for doomsday had intensified in the past few years, his brother-in-law Michael Lee said. The mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints disavowed polygamy more than a century ago.
He and Shaffer met online and grew close, and ultimately the formation of the Knights of The Crystal Sheet as a fraternal order, Lee said.
Coltharp and his wife Micah had been married about 10 years and shared four children, but the marriage was breaking up. They considered themselves separated, but still lived together when he quit his job and moved with the children to his parents house in May, Lee said.
They shared an informal guardianship arrangement until mid-September, when Coltharp told her that she should “give as a mother,” then cut off of all communications, Lee said.
The family believed that the two men had decamped 200 miles to a remote area in the vicinity of Cedar City, where they may come into contact with other people with the same belief or to convince others to go along if Coltharp’s parents were, Lee said.
Micha Coltharp started the process of getting a divorce and custody of the children, but as the weeks passed, there were still few clues about exactly where the children were.
Then, on Dec. 1, her ex-husband was at his parents ‘ home.
He was confronted by the police, but refused to say where the children were, even after he was arrested. Shaffer was with him, but the police had nothing to charge him and let him go.
With Coltharp in custody, but the children still missing, the search intensified and went public.
On Monday, police got a tip and raided the makeshift compound made of the storage containers. They found the two boys, ages 5 and 6, but Shaffer had already fled with the two Coltharp girls and his own daughters, according to prison arrest documents.
Shaffer was found in the afternoon, to walk down a road, but only the four girls remained missing.
He told the police two girls were placed in the water barrels to hide them from the police. When they were found Monday, she was there for 24 hours in temperatures well below freezing they were not dressed, according to police.
The other two girls were found in a mobile home with signs of dehydration.
All four were transported to a local hospital for treatment. All but one had been released, Tuesday. Her condition was not immediately available.