2 Southern Utah men allegedly married each other’s 7- and 8-year-old daughters

Samuel Warren Schaffer with his two daughters, photo location and date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Iron County Sheriff's Office, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Two men who started a doomsday cult in Southern Utah and were arrested on kidnapping charges in December had also reportedly married each other’s 7-year-old and 8-year-old daughter, according to an unsealed search warrant.

Samuel Warren Schaffer, booking photo posted Dec. 4, 2017 | Photo courtesy of Iron County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

The men, Samuel Shaffer, 34, and John Coltharp, 33, sexually assaulted their own daughters as well as daughters of each other, claiming that they were married to the children in the eyes of God, Iron County Sheriff’s Office Detective Nathan Houchen details in a search warrant affidavit following an interview with Shaffer.

Shaffer allegedly told investigators that he had married Coltharp’s 8-year-old daughter while Coltharp married Shaffer’s 7-year-old daughter, according to charging documents.

Coltharp and Shaffer considered themselves leaders of a fundamentalist Mormon offshoot called “Knights of the Crystal Blade,” which promoted polygamy and child marriage. The group established a settlement in a remote area near Lund in Iron County.

In December, the Sanpete County Attorney’s Office charged Coltharp with first-degree felony child kidnapping and class A misdemeanor obstruction of justice. On Jan. 8, an additional first-degree felony sodomy charge was filed against Coltharp.

Shaffer, who is being prosecuted in Iron County, has been charged with two first-degree felony counts of child kidnapping, along with four second-degree felony counts of child abuse. Prosecutors said additional charges may be forthcoming.

Their crimes came to light following a September missing person report filed by two of the girls’ mother, Micha Soble, who told police that her daughters and two sons, ranging in age from 4 to 8, disappeared from their home. Soble said she believed their father, Coltharp, who did not have custody of the children, had taken them to raise as part of his cult, according to court documents.

When John Coltharp was arrested Dec. 1 at his Spring City home and refused to tell authorities where the children were, Soble believed they could potentially be in Iron County with their grandparents, Keith and Catherine Coltharp, and the religious sect’s prophet, Schaffer.

Read more: 4 girls taken into Southern Utah cult found in ‘poor health’; 1 airlifted to Primary Children’s Hospital

On Dec. 3, 2017, Iron County Sheriff’s deputies located vehicles registered to Keith and Catherine Coltharp at a compound made up of shipping containers in a remote area of northern Iron County, approximately 1 mile west of Lund.

John Coltharp, booking photo posted Dec. 1, 2017 | Photo courtesy of Sanpete County Jail, St. George News

The next day, authorities located the two Coltharp boys at the compound with their grandparents and took them into custody. Police learned that the two Coltharp girls were last seen with Shaffer, who also had his two biological daughters, ages 7 and 5, in his custody, officials said.

Keith and Catherine Coltharp told police Shaffer had spent the last few nights with the four girls in a tent located approximately 150 yards from the shipping containers, according to the search warrant affidavit, and that Shaffer had left the compound on foot the night before.

An extensive ground and air search was conducted by law enforcement looking for the four girls and Shaffer. An Amber Alert was also issued for Coltharp’s daughters.

The four girls were recovered Dec. 5 after Shaffer was found walking a few miles from the compound. Two girls were recovered from a “deplorable” single-wide trailer, and the other two girls were found in an empty 50-gallon water drum, where they had been housed for 24 hours in subfreezing temperatures, officials said. They were shivering and hungry.

The girls were taken to an area hospital, and one was flown to Primary Children’s Hospital.

During the investigation, authorities spoke with an out-of-state man who had been in contact through social media with Shaffer and Coltharp regarding joining their religious group.

“This out of state resident traveled to Utah to investigate (Shaffer) and (Coltharp’s) religious group,” the affidavit states, “and while in Utah he was forcefully baptized by Samuel into their religion and promised a child bride.”

Preliminary hearings for the men – Shaffer in Iron County and Coltharp in Sanpete County – are scheduled for Feb. 20.

Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • mmsandie January 17, 2018 at 11:19 am

    What a sick story and this country still allows FLDS. And multiple wives .. and they live off the govt. and the children suffer

  • ladybugavenger January 17, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    Sick sick sick but not much different than flds…only the name is different….
    Dismantle the flds cult!

  • dons8120 January 17, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    Why does our country have all the weird freaks. Just put a bullet to their head and be done with it already.

    • mctrialsguy January 18, 2018 at 11:12 am

      Too much freedom, social media, internet, etc… all creates strange beings to cultivate whatever beliefs that they want and pursue their hidden agenda’s. Very sic’ people!!! Bring back hangings in the town square!

  • comments January 17, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    Another mormon-based pedophile child-sex cult? A lot of you LDS’ers don’t realize that the religious delusions you believe in actually do a great deal of harm in this world. And no mormon angels floated down to intervene when all these little kids were getting raped. It’s not fair to lay all the blame on mormonism, ofc, but take a lunatic man like this and combine it with a lunatic religion like mormonsim, and things go from bad… to a lot lot worse.

    • johncmiller January 17, 2018 at 9:09 pm

      These are not Mormons nor does this relate to anything at all of what Mormons believe or stand for. Educate yourself before you look like a prejudice jerk next time.

      • Sheri January 17, 2018 at 10:18 pm

        Please do tell how Joseph Smith only had adult wives… oh wait.. ??‍♀️

        • Nobody January 18, 2018 at 4:03 am

          Hahaha!! Awesome, well played. Love it!

      • redrock4 January 18, 2018 at 8:21 am

        Mormons are better – now that they are not stopping blacks from being in the priesthood, or condoning plural marriage to children, or. . . So don’t forget your roots as a Mormon.

  • Real Life January 17, 2018 at 1:56 pm

    Why are all Mormon offshoot “religions” synonymous with pedophelia?

    • johncmiller January 17, 2018 at 9:10 pm

      Biggest enemies to the actual Mormon church are those who left it and twisted their beliefs. It’s too bad the name Mormon is even tide to the not Mormon cults.

      • redrock4 January 18, 2018 at 8:16 am

        It’s all just fiction anyway. The only “true church” is the one you make up and believe. Just different fictional stories all tied together. So, if you want to make up that being gay is wrong, or marrying kids is OK – go for it.

  • PlanetU January 17, 2018 at 8:32 pm

    This state looks the other way, don’t want to prosecute. Texas prosecuted Warren a hole Jeffs. Otherwise religious perverts get away with a lot of crap because “our pioneer ancestors”…blah, blah, blah.

  • mctrialsguy January 18, 2018 at 11:16 am

    Down on Mormons are thee?? They created the “Leave to Beaver” old town feel that Utah and St. George used to have. Those that went another way created these pedophile issues. You benefit from the founding fathers beliefs on morality and society by living in a great place. Sounds like most of you are the problem as well, and…I am not Mormon.

  • jaybird January 18, 2018 at 11:59 am

    Too sick for words. Lock them up; throw away the keys. Let them rot.

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