‘I sincerely believed that the practice was correct at the time’: Self-styled prophet gets additional 15 years

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

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A self-styled prophet who led a doomsday cult and secretly married young girls because of his beliefs in polygamy has already been sentenced to 26 years in prison. However, Samuel Shaffer, 35, was given an additional 15-year term Wednesday following another guilty plea.

Shaffer was sentenced Wednesday in Manti after pleading guilty to one felony count of child sodomy, the Deseret News reported. Other charges, including bigamy, lewdness involving a child and an additional sodomy count, were dropped in exchange for the guilty plea.

Shaffer had previously pleaded guilty to separate child rape and abuse charges in another Utah court and was sentenced last month to at least 26 years in prison. The new sentence will be served concurrently and won’t extend his prison term but will be reviewed when determining his parole, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors say Shaffer led a group called the Knights of the Crystal Blade based on arcane Mormon ideas long abandoned by the mainstream church.

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

He and his fellow self-styled prophet, John Coltharp, 34, proclaimed to each secretly marry two young girls aged 4 through 8 related to the other man.

Coltharp pleaded guilty to sodomy and child bigamy charges earlier this month. His sentencing is scheduled for August.

Shaffer was charged in December 2017 after police with helicopters and dogs raided a remote makeshift desert compound made out of shipping containers near Lund, a town west of Cedar City. Authorities found the girls hiding in flimsy plastic barrels and a nearby abandoned trailer where Shaffer said he had placed them to protect them from the winter weather.

The men had taken the children to the compound months before in preparation for an apocalypse or in hopes of gaining followers, authorities said.

At the hearing Wednesday, Shaffer told Judge Marvin Bagley that he had hoped to have a family and grow old with one of the girls.

“I sincerely believed that child marriage was a correct principle from God. And I’ve seen the consequences of what’s happened, and I know that I shouldn’t have done it now,” Shaffer said. “But I sincerely believed that the practice was correct at the time.”

Bagley said he wasn’t aware of “any religion in this world that justifies an adult having a sexual relationship with an 8-year-old girl. Certainly it’s a violation of Utah law.”

A third man, Robert Shane Roe, 34, of Castro, California, was charged earlier this month with sodomy of a child in connection with the group. He allegedly met the cult’s founders in a Facebook discussion group last year and traveled to Utah to join them.

Written by The Associated Press.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • comments June 28, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    The whole “religion” thing they cook up is just a cover for their pedophilia. It’s the same with the plygs up in shortcreek. I wonder how many of these FLDS type cultists actually believe in the odd cult beliefs they claim to. I guess we should give those good ol’ moslems a little credit since they at least wait until the little girls are 9, huh? It’s all filth as far as I’m concerned. My own LDS religion is far too similar to these FLDS-style cults. They got them good ol’ polygamy roots! I don’t know how you other LDS’ers deal with all the historic “baggage” our religion comes with. It’s all just too much for me, and that’s all besides the odd kooky, cultish LDS beliefs that are just part of the package.

    • Carpe Diem June 28, 2018 at 6:40 pm

      This is becoming more common, folks waking up to the shaky foundation “certain un-named Church leaders” lay or had already laid down. That’s why I steer away from ANY mainstream “religion”, and there are several good Churches (Southland, South Mountain, Calvary, just a few) around the County and each has quite a few members of ex-Mormons. They are always welcome. Some have clubs where they can all gather at certain times, I guess this helps with dealing with the aforementioned “baggage” one might have to deal with. Trust me though, it’s quite liberating and no one will hate you. They understand too.

      • comments June 28, 2018 at 7:45 pm

        thoughtful of you to mention, but I’m quite a firm unbeliever at this point. I flat-out don’t want anyone preaching anything to me about Jesus or THE LORD in any circumstance. I was never a good mormon and was prob never a believer in it, and even from a very young age I felt like it was a load of BS, so I don’t have the “emotional baggage” or feeling of betrayal that a lot of former mormons have. Experience tells me that ALL churches are just businesses at their cores $$$ .

        • ladybugavenger June 29, 2018 at 8:19 pm

          I’m not a believer in churches either. The fancier the buildings are, the further I go the other way!

    • jaybird June 28, 2018 at 10:00 pm

      Some that read the article about a woman suing the LDS church for its cover up of her own fathers molesting her seemed to blame the girl for victimizing the church. This is a good rem8nder for us all that closed religions are capable of heinous crimes, no matter where or what.

  • Mike P June 29, 2018 at 9:38 am

    I believe he’s going to have to rethink this whole sodomy thing now that he’s in prison………..

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