Published: Wed, December 06, 2017
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

Father kidnapped his 4 children, joined polygamous doomsday cult, police say

Father kidnapped his 4 children, joined polygamous doomsday cult, police say

Two Utah girls have been found safe almost three months after they were allegedly kidnapped by their father, who family members feared had betrothed them to a polygamist sect leader. Along with them, deputies found two other young girls who are the biological daughters of the man suspected of detaining them.

8-year-old Dinah and 4-year-old Haddie were taken by their father to Spring City, Utah in May along with their two brothers. The boys were found at the compound earlier Monday.

John Coltharp is in jail.

Shaffer is a self-proclaimed "prophet".

He was arrested last week but had refused to disclose the location of his children, even after prosecutors offered him a deal if he told them where they were. Records do not list an attorney who could comment on his behalf.

Shaffer was booked on four counts of child abuse and two counts of child kidnapping, all felony charges. He said Samuel Shaffer was not a polygamist or part of an established group and questioned the characterization of the area compound.

It comes after an Amber Alert was issued when their mother, Micha Soble, said her four children had disappeared on 13 September.

In November, Utah voters broke the stranglehold of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), which had controlled the town of Hildale since settling there more than 100 years ago.

Authorities say their father took the children and grandparents to San Juan County, where they joined the Knights of the Crystal Blade.

Coltharp and his wife Micha had been married about 10 years and shared four children, but the marriage was breaking up. While the website itself doesn't explicitly condone marrying young girls, Coltharp's sister has informed the police about what they really believe.

Then, on December 1, her ex-husband turned up at his parents' home. Deputies responded and found the male to be Samuel Shaffer, who was last seen with the girls on Sunday along with his two biological children-Lily Shaffer, age 7, and Samantha Shaffer, age 5.

With Coltharp in custody but the children still missing, the search intensified and went public.

A tip was supplied that led to the raid.

According to Lt. Del Schlosser of the Iron County Sheriff's Office, Shaffer was likely traveling with an accomplice, John Coltharp, the father of the two AMBER Alert girls, when the alleged kidnapping took place. That wasn't enough information, though, for deputies to find the children.

He told police two girls had been placed in the water barrels to hide them from police.

The two children had been in the barrels in subfreezing temperatures for about 24 hours, were not dressed for the cold and had no food or water.

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