Two Utah men have been arrested for conducting secret child-bride marriages, with victims as young as 4 years of age.
The two men formed a religious group called the Knights of the Crystal Blade and developed a remote compound from shipping containers in southern Utah. It is believed that each man was married to two underage girls, one of whom was related to them, as confirmed by prosecutor Kevin Daniels.
Coltharp, who is 33 years of age, was charged this week with child sodomy after police found four girls who were hidden on the compound during a raid; reportedly, some of the girls were hidden in 50-gallon plastic water barrels. Similar charges are coming against Shaffer. Both men were also charged last month with child kidnapping. Authorities are still investigating the full extent of abuse on the compound.
Who are John Coltharp & Samuel Shaffer?
Shaffer and Coltharp are believed to be friends who bonded over a shared interest in Mormon concepts that have been rejected by the mainstream church, claims police.
The child marriages are believed to have taken place in the summer of 2017. According to Time, prosecutor Kevin Daniels said:
“They were actively recruiting; they wanted to build this group up.
These are extreme individuals with extreme beliefs that believe the end of the world is coming…[Police] prevented those little girls from dying … or repeating a Waco-style shootout.”
Police instigated the raid after being contacted by the mother of two girls and two boys who had been kidnapped and were held in the compound. The two boys were found in the makeshift compound and the girls were later found hidden in the barrels and a trailer in the area; police originally had problems finding the girls, but they were eventually given their location during a confession. After being rescued, the two girls were tested for the effects of cold and dehydration but are said to be recovering.
Attorneys for the two men have not currently released a statement over the arrest.