Earlier this week, an Amber Alert went out for two missing children in Iron County, Utah. They were believed to be with a religious sect leader to whom their father had given them.
According to the Denver Post, police believed that the children’s father, John Coltharp, a polygamist sect member, gave two of his daughters, eight-year-old Dinah Elizabeth Coltharp and four-year-old Hattie Briella Coltharp, to religious sect leader Samuel Warren Shaffer for marriage.
As Fox 13 reports the children’s mother, Micha Soble, told authorities “They are with a man that calls himself Samuel ‘The Seer.'” She explained:
“His name is Samuel Warren Shaffer and he believes he holds the keys of this dispensation and he has been many people throughout the history of time and that he has been reincarnated. They are following his prophecies and I believe he is with them and helping hide the children.”
According to Fox 13:
Authorities said Shaffer also had his two biological daughters with him, ages 5 and 7.
Soble filed for divorce and was given sole custody before the children went missing with their father. She told the Denver Post that Coltharp and Schaffer created the polygamist cult— named the “Knights of the Crystal Blade”— about a year ago.
John Coltharp was arrested on Saturday for the alleged kidnapping of Dinah, Hattie, and their brothers, seven-year-old William and six-year-old Seth.
The boys were found, but the girls’ location remained a mystery.
The family feared the two girls’ lives were on the line, according to the Denver Post, as Coltharp told them he would rather kill the kids than let the government take them.
When Coltharp was arrested, he refused to tell officers where the children were, shooting down their offer for him to be released on his own recognizance from jail if he told police their whereabouts.Sanpete County Sheriff’s Department
Luckily, after receiving a tip, police found Shaffer walking along a dirt road; he told authorities where they could find the girls.
The children were found near a “makeshift residence” that was made out of shipping containers, according to Fox 13.
Four-year-old Hattie and one of Shaffer’s daughters were hidden inside plastic 50-gallon water barrels with no food or clothes in subfreezing temperatures for about 24 hours.
Eight-year-old Dinah and another of Shaffer’s daughters were being held in an abandoned mobile home in “deplorable living conditions.”
According to KSL, Iron County Sheriff’s Lt. Del Schlosser celebrated the missing children’s safe return:
“This is a great example of the Amber Alert system working quickly to find missing children. Had we not located them tonight, most likely they would not have made it through the night.”
As the NY Daily News reports, Coltharp’s sister Heather Coltharp Lee wrote a scathing Facebook post about her brother following his arrest. It read:
I hope my brother rots in jail, which pains me so much to say because he is my little brother, and I love him. But his choices have destroyed so many lives.
Coltharp is being held on a $50,000 bail. Shaffer was charged with four counts of child abuse and two counts of child kidnapping.
Three of the rescued girls have been released from the hospital since they were rescued on Monday.
See more about the men’s arrest below: