Dec 7, 2017

Deputies raid house of polygamist sect in Southern Utah, find 2 boys, but 2 girls missing

Spring City, Utah police arrested John Coltharp for investigation of kidnapping his children

The Denver Post
December 4, 2017

An Amber Alert has been issued for two sisters believed to be with a man calling himself a prophet after authorities raided a home in Lund, Utah and rescued two boys in a case with Colorado ties.

The Iron County Sheriff’s Department activated the Amber Alert on Monday afternoon after learning that the two sisters, Dinah Coltharp, 8, and Haddie, 4, were last seen with Samuel Shaffer, his two daughters and two women.

Family members had said Monday before the discovery of the girls’ two brothers, William, 7, and Seth, 6, that they fear the girls may have been betrothed to a man for marriage by their father, John Coltharp, who was arrested Saturday.

Family members of Coltharp, who moved from Highlands Ranch to Utah and then helped form a religious/survivalist sect, say they are worried about the safety of his two daughters after they say he told relatives he would rather kill the kids and anyone who tried to take them than let the government take custody of them.

Police in Spring City, Utah, arrested Coltharp, late Saturday for investigation of kidnapping his four children, said Spring City Police Chief Clarke Christensen.

Upon his arrest Coltharp refused to divulge the location of his children, even after a prosecutor offered to release him on his own recognizance from jail if he told officials where they were, Christensen said. He is being held on a $50,000 cash bond, Christensen said.

“I consider them to be in danger because of the group they are with,” Christensen said.

He said the boys were found Monday afternoon just outside Cedar City limits.

John Coltharp and Shaffer, who calls himself a prophet and a seer, formed a polygamist sect called “Knights of the Crystal Blade” about a year ago, said Coltharp’s wife, Micha Soble, 28, of Springville, Utah.

Soble and John Coltharp’s sister, Cindi Ray, said they were concerned about the safety and well-being of the children because they say he has threatened to kill the children and anyone who tries to take them.

“My brother’s views are so extremist I wouldn’t put it past him to put a bullet in their heads,” Ray said Monday. John Coltharp has told family members it would be preferable to kill the children so they could go to heaven rather than let the government take custody of them, said Ray’s husband, Greg Ray, 30.

The daughters may have been with Coltharp’s parents, Keith and Catherine Coltharp, formerly of Highlands Ranch, Christensen said.

John Coltharp persuaded his father, Keith Coltharp, to quit his job as an accountant at Lockheed Martin and his mother to quit her job at a Highlands Ranch nurse’s office and move to Spring City two years ago, Soble said.

Even if the girls haven’t been physically harmed, Cindi Ray said she is concerned about their health and nutrition.

“Are they being fed? Are they being taken care of?” she said.

But Shaffer’s brother, Benjamin Shaffer, said his brother may not even know of the Amber Alert and that from his perspective all he is doing is babysitting the Coltharp sisters.

“The last thing I want is for police to shoot a babysitter,” Benjamin Shaffer said. “My brother is a bit eccentric. But I don’t believe any of his religious beliefs are dangerous. I don’t see a concern about child brides.”

He said the allegations against his brother, who is harmless, are exaggerated. Their group was a philosophical club, not a religion, and certainly not a cult, he said.

The Coltharps grew up in Highlands Ranch and were members of the Mormon church, Soble said. At the age of 16, Soble joined the Mormon church and married John Coltharp, who immediately began “brainwashing” her about beliefs not held by the church, she said. They moved from Colorado to Provo, Utah, in 2008.

Soble said the Mormon church excommunicated her husband because of his extreme beliefs. She said her husband forbade her from interacting with their Mormon neighbors, claiming that the Mormons are Satan worshipers who “eat babies.” Their children couldn’t play with neighborhood children because the kids were “spies.”

He wanted her to move into the woods and live “off the grid.” She refused. They separated, but continued living in the same apartment, one living upstairs and the other downstairs. John Coltharp quit his job in May and took their four children with him to live with his parents in Spring City, Soble said. Soble couldn’t pay rent on her wages alone, she said.

“There was no way he was going to let me take my children, so he took them first,” she said. “I was left homeless, living in my van.”

On Sept. 15, John Coltharp and his parents gave their chickens away and disappeared, presumably to live near Cedar City, Utah, Soble said.

Soble called police and filed a report. But Christensen said at that stage her husband was the children’s legal parent.

“A parent can take their kids. He’s claiming he’s on an extended vacation,” Christensen said.

Soble said she filed for divorce and obtained sole custody of her children. She said she hasn’t been able to sleep and lives in constant fear for her children. Police and family members have received tips that John Coltharp is in a mountain retreat where he has stockpiled weapons and food.

“I have been living an absolute nightmare,” Soble said.

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