2 Southern Utah men face additional charges of child bigamy

Stock image | St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Two Southern Utah doomsday cult leaders who reportedly married each other’s 7-year-old and 8-year-old daughters, respectively, are facing new criminal charges.

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

Additional charges were filed Tuesday against Samuel Warren Shaffer, 34, of Cedar City, and John Alvin Coltharp, 34, of Spring City.

Shaffer, who is being prosecuted in Iron County, was charged in December 2017 with two first-degree felony counts of child kidnapping, along with four second-degree felony counts of child abuse. Prosecutors have since filed additional charges to include two first-degree felony counts of sodomy on a child; second-degree felony conspiracy to commit child bigamy; second-degree felony obstruction of justice; and class A misdemeanor lewdness involving a child.

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, along with a second-degree felony child bigamy charge filed Tuesday.

Their crimes came to light when both men were arrested in December on accusations that the men kidnapped Coltharp’s four children, of whom he did not have custody, and had taken them to raise as part of his cult, according to court documents.

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

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

Authorities located the children at a compound made up of shipping containers in a remote area of northern Iron County, approximately 1 mile west of Lund.

Two girls were recovered from what officials said was a “deplorable” single-wide trailer, and two other girls were found in an empty 50-gallon water drum, where they had been housed for 24 hours in subfreezing temperatures. The girls were taken to an area hospital, and one was flown to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City.

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.

A preliminary hearing for Coltharp is scheduled for Feb. 20 in Sanpete County, and Shaffer’s is scheduled for Feb. 21 in Iron County.

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

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

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