A look inside homes raided by federal agents seeking evidence of underage marriages in FLDS splinter group

Samuel Bateman was arrested and remains in an Arizona jail, facing charges of destroying evidence and child abuse.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The so-called "Green House," which was raided and searched by the FBI after the arrest of Samuel Bateman in Colorado City, Ariz. on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022.

Colorado City, Ariz. • In the early morning hours on Sept. 13, dozens of FBI agents armed with guns — and a search warrant — descended onto a small, historically polygamous community that straddles the Utah-Arizona border.

They parked their cars haphazardly along the muddy red dirt roads in Colorado City, Ariz., surrounding a small green home where Samuel Bateman lived with his closest followers.

They had just raided a warehouse where Bateman spent time and some of his followers worked. Agents then searched the green home, and a second one nearby — a larger pale blue house where some of Bateman’s other followers resided.

That day, federal agents arrested Bateman, the leader of a small new offshoot of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), and searched his homes. Arizona child welfare officials briefly removed nine girls from Bateman’s homes that day, and then took them into state custody a day later.

Bateman’s followers allowed a Tribune photographer to document what the properties looked like after FBI agents spent the day searching their homes.

The green house

Bateman lived with his closest followers inside this small green home, according to those who live in the community.

Inside the green home, the foyer or “prayer room” included a rendering of a 40-bedroom multimillion dollar marble mansion. Bateman said in a YouTube video he posted that he had a dream about building this new home on federal land, a place where he could bring the queen of England for a visit.

Bateman and as many as two dozen others shared the two-bedroom home in Colorado City, Ariz., near the Utah state line.

A framed card rested on Bateman’s bed after federal agents spent several hours searching through his home. His followers referred to Bateman as “Father,” they told The Tribune.

A framed photo of FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, who is serving a life sentence in Texas for sexually abusing two girls he had taken as polygamous wives, was inside the home. Several of Bateman’s followers told The Tribune that he began telling them in 2019 that he was the new prophet, and Jeffs had either died in prison or was translated — a teaching of the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that refers to God changing a person from mortal to immortal. Bateman told them Jeffs would only speak through him, they said.

A vision board tacked to the wall over a workspace in Bateman’s home displayed dreams of a lavish future life. Bateman claimed in a YouTube video that he spent $70,000 on business mentorship programs and was in communication with billionaires.

A tiara rested on stacks of books about religion, financial empowerment and baby names on a shelf inside Bateman’s home.

Another vision board was framed and hung inside Bateman’s home. Bateman did accomplish his goal of having luxury cars — he was often seen around town wearing a white leather jacket, traveling in a single-file motorcade of two Bentleys sandwiched between two Range Rovers.

The blue house

Other members of Bateman’s group lived at a large blue home located two blocks away from where Bateman lived, according to followers.

In FLDS culture, a “Zion” sign hung over a doorway signifies fervent belief and dedication to their faith. The entryway that federal agents went through as they began their search of the blue home was under a “Zion” sign.

A member of Samuel Bateman’s group showed the state of a bedroom after FBI agents raided and searched it.

A regimented daily schedule was pinned to the wall in a common area of the home.

A portrait of FLDS leader Warren Jeffs was hung on the wall in a common room in the home. Other revered church leaders on the opposite wall included Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Leroy S. Johnson and Rulon Jeffs.

The warehouse

Bateman kept a small warehouse in Colorado City where he spent time and women worked call center-type jobs. It was one of the properties federal agents raided on Sept. 13.

Inside Bateman’s warehouse after federal agents searched it, a receipt for property showed federal authorities seized computers, a hard drive, Bateman’s birth certificate, and handwritten notes and journals. They also took two adult toys and several cellphones, according to the document.

A love note was written on a whiteboard inside the warehouse.

A list of drink recipes was left behind in the warehouse. The sheet scheduled a different follower to deliver Bateman drinks each day at 7 a.m., 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. “Father wishes that all of his drinks are on time,” it reads.

A note of positive affirmations and tasks to complete sat atop a stack of papers and magazines inside the warehouse.