Feb 22, 2018

Doomsday cult 'prophet' pleads guilty to sexually abusing child he married

Samuel Warren Shaffer
Bree Burkitt
St. George Daily Spectrum
February 21, 2018
The former self-proclaimed prophet of the Knights of the Crystal Blade pleaded guilty to marrying and sexually assaulting an 8-year-old girl in Southern Utah.

Samuel Warren Shaffer, 34, was charged with first-degree felony rape of a child and one second-degree felony count of child abuse. His plea acknowledges he had engaged in a sexual act with the underage daughter of a fellow member of the Iron County-based religious sect.

The first-degree felony alone carries a sentence of 25 years to life in the Utah State Prison, while the child-abuse charges carries an addition one to 15 years. The judge can choose to order the sentences to be served consecutively or concurrently. 

The plea deal was vital to prevent the child victims from having to testify, Iron County Attorney Scott Garrett explained.

"We're ecstatic about this plea, not only to hold him accountable with a 25 to life sentence, but also to protect the child from being revictimized."

Deputy Iron County Attorney Mike Edwards said Shaffer could face additional charges if child pornography is found on a computer currently being searched by law enforcement.

A pre-sentence investigation report will be completed prior to his sentencing on April 10.
Child brides

The Beryl man told an Iron County sheriff's investigator he had married John Alvin Coltharp’s underage daughter, according to a search warrant. Coltharp, a fellow sect member, had also allegedly married Shaffer’s 7-year-old daughter. Court documents state Shaffer had physically inspected the girl's genitals to determine if she was a virgin.

Shaffer was the original prophet of the small fundamentalist Mormon religious group. He told investigators in December that he had passed the prophecy on to Coltharp, who is currently being held in Sanpete County on charges of kidnapping and sodomy of a child.

He outlined his beliefs in writings, podcasts and videos hosted on a website titled “The Kingdom of God or Nothing.” Shaffer asserted that his beliefs, including supporting plural marriage and child unions, were handed down to him by God directly on June 22, 2015.

New search warrants recently unsealed in 6th District Court reveal police had expected to find a notebook detailing their plans to kidnap even more children as they prepared for the impending end of the world.

"John and Sam both believed that the end of the world was near," according to the warrant. "Also expected in the recorded notes or revelations is the plan by John and Sam to abduct more family children about the time of the anticipated Muslim invasion of the United States, which was imminent."

Shaffer is still facing two counts of first-degree felony sodomy of a child in Sanpete County. He's also charged with one count of obstructing justice in addition to child bigamy, both second-degree felonies.

Coltharp was arrested at his home by Spring City police Dec. 1 after he allegedly failed to turn over his four children to his ex-wife, who had been awarded full custody of their two daughters and two sons in November. He told investigators the children were in the care of Shaffer, but refused to revealed where they were.

Shaffer's father, James Shaffer, was recently charged with obstructing justice after being accused of lying to police about having Coltharp's children hidden in his Spring City home.

A statewide Amber Alert was issued Dec. 5 after the Iron County Sheriff's Office raided a compound belonging to Coltharp approximately one mile west of Lund. The grandparents of Coltharp’s children and the two boys were found living in a makeshift residence composed of storage containers on the compound. They told authorities the girls had spent the night with Shaffer in a tent on the property. He had last been seen leaving the area on foot the day before.

A witness later spotted Shaffer walking alone on a dirt road several miles west of the compound. He was taken into custody without incident shortly after before telling law enforcement where Coltharp’s two daughter and his own biological daughters were hidden. Two of the children were found hiding in a blue plastic 50-gallon water barrel. Shaffer told investigators he had placed the children in the water barrel an estimated 24 hours earlier to hide them from searching law enforcement, the probable cause statement said.

The other two females were hidden separately in an abandoned single-wide mobile home in “deplorable conditions” approximately five miles away from the property, the report detailed. The mobile home appeared to be primarily used for storage and was not equipped for living.

All four females were transported by helicopter to the Cedar City Hospital after the rescue. One of Shaffer’s daughter was flown by Life Flight helicopter to the Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake.

Bree Burkitt is the Cedar City reporter for The Spectrum & Daily News. Follow her on Twitter at @BreeBurkitt, or call her at 435-218-2241.


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