Two alleged members of Knights of the Crystal Blade — a religious cult that allegedly believes in doomsday prophecies and practices polygamy — have allegedly married each other’s underage daughters.
Utah-native John Coltharp (pictured above, left) has been charged with first-degree-felony kidnapping and obstruction of justice, while Samuel Shaffer (right) has been slapped with two counts of kidnapping and four counts of child abuse. According to KUTV, Coltharp has also been charged with sodomy of a child for an alleged incident that happened on August 1, 2017.
In a search warrant affidavit obtained by Salt Lake Tribune, Shaffer told police he married Coltharp’s 8-year-old daughter, while Coltharp married Shaffer’s 7-year-old girl.
According to a press release obtained by People, it all began when Coltharp’s ex-wife called the police accusing him of kidnapping their four children. While the 33-year-old was arrested at his house, his kids were not there. Three days later, in a compound one mile west of Lund, authorities found his parents and two sons living inside shipping containers.
Police went after Shaffer once they learned he spent the night with four girls — his two daughters, ages seven and five, and Coltharp’s two daughters — in a tent near the Lund compound. After an AMBER alert went off for Coltharp’s two daughters, police were notified of a white male (eventually identified as Shaffer) walking alone several miles west of the compound.
Once Shaffer was taken into custody, he told officials the whereabouts for one of his daughters and one of Coltharp’s. The two young women were found inside two blue plastic 50 gallon water barrels near the Coltharp property. Allegedly, Shaffer told deputies the girls were inside the barrels to hide from the cops.
According to the press release, the minors were in the barrels for around 24 hours in subfreezing temperatures. Additionally:
“These two children were not properly dressed for the cold temperatures and did not have food or water at that time… Shaffer also made statements he had left a firearm behind on the ground next to the barrel.”
Although Shaffer allegedly refused to tell authorities the location of the other two girls, he eventually did, and police found them in an abandoned single-wide mobile trailer in “poor health with signs of dehydration and acting lethargic.”
All four girls received medical care at Cedar City Hospital.
To make matters worse, according to the affidavit, an out-of-state man told Spring City Police Chief Clarke Christensen he spoke to the two men via social media about their religious group. Once in Utah, the man was “forcefully” baptized into the church by Shaffer, and was promised a child bride.
Shaffer and Coltharp have hearings on Wednesday.