‘Prophets’ of small Utah group Knights of the Crystal Blade married their own daughters and were planning to kidnap other children, police say
FILE - This undated file photo provided by Sanpete County Jail shows John Coltharp. Prosecutors say Coltharp and Samuel Shaffer, two Utah men who believe in doomsday and polygamy, had sexually abused young girls after conducting secret marriages they said were ordained by God. (Sanpete County Jail via AP, File)
Police believe John Coltharp and Samuel Shaffer, both having been a “prophet” of the small religious group Knights of the Crystal Blade, were planning to kidnap children about the same time that they were anticipating a Muslim invasion of the United States.
The men were bracing for the end of the world and believed that they had been receiving revelations from God, according to search warrant affidavits unsealed this week.
The affidavits depict erratic behavior of the men, starting when Coltharp’s ex-wife first called police in September, concerned for the safety of her children. The behavior allegedly includes plotting a killing, kidnapping, sexual abuse of young children and the marrying of young children.
The men have been charged with a variety of crimes, including child bigamy
, kidnapping and sexual abuse
FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Iron County Sheriff's office shows Samuel Shaffer. Prosecutors say Shaffer and John Coltharp, two Utah men who believe in doomsday and polygamy, had sexually abused young girls after conducting secret marriages they said were ordained by God. (Iron County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)
Police issued an Amber Alert
in an effort to find Coltharp’s daughters in December. Shaffer was found shortly afterward, near a makeshift Iron County compound the small religious group had set up near Lund.
Shaffer gave the locations of his two daughters and Coltharp’s two daughters; two were in a poorly kept mobile home, and the other two were in an empty water drum.
After his arrest, Shaffer told police the men had married each other’s daughters
The men, both 34, are the organizers of Knights of the Crystal Blade
, a fundamentalist Mormon offshoot. Shaffer was the original leader, but he passed the prophet mantle on to Coltharp in July when he began receiving revelations, according to police.
In September, Coltharp and his ex-wife, Micha Coltharp, had irreconcilable differences after John Coltharp told his then-wife that she was unfit for motherhood. Micha Coltharp relocated from Spring City to Utah County, leaving the children with John Coltharp, and called police on Sept. 16 to report that she had not heard from her husband or children in some time and was worried.
Police responded to Coltharp’s Spring City home to find it vacated. On Dec. 1, Spring City Police Chief Clarke Christensen noticed strange activity at the Coltharp home and responded with other officers to find John Coltharp out front. The man refused to tell police where Shaffer, his “partner,” was.
Police arrested John Coltharp that night on suspicion of custodial interference. Shortly after, a Sanpete County deputy stopped Shaffer, who had no children with him at the time but had child car seats in the vehicle.
While officers were talking with John Coltharp in front of his house, police learned later, Shaffer was in the home with the children. He led them out from the back, telling them to be quiet and stay near plants to avoid being seen by officers.
He then led the children to an old gasoline tanker and hid them in the truck’s cab before getting into his own vehicle. After being pulled over, the affidavits state, Shaffer left the area and returned a short time later to recover the children. Shaffer took the children to his father’s Nephi house for the night.
According to the affidavits, James Shaffer, Samuel’s father, was questioned several times by police but repeatedly refused to give information about the religious leaders and their alleged crimes. On Jan. 30, James Shaffer was charged with misdemeanor obstruction of justice.
Christensen recently returned to James Shaffer’s home to talk with him, according to the affidavits. James Shaffer welcomed him in and gave him two bags left by Samuel Shaffer and John Coltharp. The warrants, which were approved, sought access to the bags and their contents.
According to the affidavits, Christensen believed there was documentation in the bags to support a theory that John Coltharp was planning to kill his young son, who he believed was an “evil spirit.” After the killing, the boy would teach Coltharps’ ex-wife, Micha Coltharp, “the gospel in the spirit world.”
John Coltharp had said his ex-wife died of cancer after God gave it to her, the affidavits state. Micha Coltharp is alive.
The affidavits say John Coltharp and Samuel Shaffer thought the end of the world was near and that they were anticipating a Muslim invasion. They do not say how that information was gleaned.
They also say Samuel Shaffer was married to Coltharp’s 8-year-old daughter as well as his own 4-year-old daughter. Coltharp married Shaffer’s 7-year-old daughter, as well as his own 4-year-old daughter. In one of the bags given to Christensen by James Shaffer was a notebook titled “Coltharp Family History,” which Christensen believed would include marriage records.
Police have documentation of revelations recorded by John Coltharp that say he had permission to marry his 4-year-old daughter, the affidavits say, but only to have sex with her if she initiated it.
In interviews with the girls, police learned of repeated sexual contact between the men and children under the age of 14. Child pornography, the affidavits say, was on a computer in one of the bags James Shaffer gave to police.
The FBI is processing electronics, according to police documents. The agency interviewed someone known to John Coltharp who said John Coltharp told him he keeps everything on the computer, the affidavits say, and if “they” found it, he would be “fried.”