Doomsday cult prophet who promoted child marriage is sentenced

Stock image | Photo by cornstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images, St. George News

MANTI, Utah (AP) — A self-styled prophet who helped lead a Utah doomsday cult that believed in polygamy and promoted child marriage remained defiant Wednesday as he was sent to prison for at least 25 years.

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

John Coltharp, 35, told a judge he was following “heavenly laws” and was an Old Testament figure returned to Earth to promote child marriage, the Deseret News reported .

He maintained that it doesn’t matter how long he goes to prison because society won’t last much longer.

Judge Marvin Bagley told Coltharp his beliefs are wrong and don’t come from the Bible. He said he hopes Coltharp is never released from prison.

Coltharp pleaded guilty to sodomy and child bigamy charges in June. He could spend life in prison as he waits for a parole board to determine a possible release date.

Coltharp and his friend Samuel W. Shaffer, 34, formed a group called the Knights of the Crystal Blade based on arcane Mormon ideas long abandoned by the mainstream church, authorities said.

The two have described the religious group a “fundamentalist group for millennials” that formed online.

Both men held the title of prophet at different points and each secretly married two young girls ages 4 through 8, according to prosecutors. The girls were related to the men.

Deputies discovered the four girls in barrels and an abandoned trailer on a makeshift compound of shipping containers in a remote section of Iron County in December.

A mother of two of the girls had reported them missing along with two of her sons. The men took the children to the compound in preparation for an apocalypse or in hopes of gaining followers, authorities said.

Shaffer is serving a prison sentence of at least 26 years and up to life following separate convictions related to the abuse.

A third man who authorities said joined the group after meeting its founders via Facebook, has also been charged with child sexual abuse, and police have said two other followers have cooperated with investigators.

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  • Carpe Diem August 9, 2018 at 9:33 am

    It’s rare that Utah gets around to prosecuting fundamentalist child abusers, hope this is a trend and also hope it helps bring a halt to the long practice.

    Currently the FLDS is being sued by an abused child, and documentation of the abuse was found in the Temple at the Yearning for Zion Cult Compound.

  • Kilroywashere August 9, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    The only old testament figure that comes to mind that fits his current paradigm is Satan. I wonder if he will come to that realization at some point. It’s hard not to believe there isnt mental illness involved at the bottom of all this. Whatever the case he is a sick sick sick human being, and as strange as this sounds, I hope he sees the light one day and realizes the depth of his ignorance.

    • mesaman August 9, 2018 at 8:41 pm

      Kilroy, is this a professional opinion or just the musings of a concerned person?

  • Jeannette August 9, 2018 at 8:51 pm

    Kilroywashere – These cult leaders aren’t mentally ill, they are just evil power mongers. All the child abuse and abuse to women are for “power.” He knows what he did. He probably will reap some of what he sowed while in prison.

    • comments August 9, 2018 at 10:46 pm

      Well, it seems one of the qualifications to become a prophet of the LORD in UT is that one must be a pedophile. He was just doing what prophets do in UT. What can ya do?

  • stevenxfiles August 9, 2018 at 11:19 pm

    Friendly suggestion for the St George News… in a civilized society we do not refer to this scumbag a ‘prophet’ we call him a ‘pedophile’. Thank you.

  • Mike P August 10, 2018 at 9:00 am

    A lot of “prophets” out there. Anyone can claim to be one, and a lot of people out there willing to follow one.

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