Child sex abuse charges filed against third member of Knights of the Crystal Blade

Prosecutors in central Utah have filed a child sex abuse charge against another member of the Knights of the Crystal Blade — a small religious group that believes in polygamy and that a doomsday was nearing.

Robert Roe, 34, was charged Thursday in Utah’s 6th District Court with one count of sodomy on a child. The charge carries the possibility of life in prison.

Court records list Roe as a resident of Castro, Calif. Sanpete County Attorney Kevin Daniels said Roe is not yet in custody. Daniels said his office is seeking an arrest warrant.

Roe is the third member of a small, perhaps short-lived religious group whose followers called themselves Knights of the Crystal Blade to be charged with a sex crime. Court records have said the leaders believed in Mormon fundamentalist teachings, including in polygamy, and that a Muslim invasion of the United States and end of the world were nearing.

“He’s not a prophet or leader as the [other defendants] are,” Daniels said. “He’s simply a follower.”

FILE - In this Feb. 20, 2018, file photo, Samuel Shaffer stands during a court hearing in Cedar City. Shaffer, a self-styled Utah prophet accused of secretly marrying young girls because of his beliefs in polygamy and doomsday, will serve at least 26 years in prison after pleading guilty to child rape and abuse charges. (James Dobson/The Spectrum via AP, Pool, File)

Daniels said Roe communicated on the internet with the cult’s two leaders, John Coltharp and Samuel Shaffer. They found common beliefs, Daniels said.

Roe then drove to Utah to get baptized into the cult, Daniels said. Afterward, Daniels said, Roe “married” a 5-year-old girl who had family in the cult, took her to a motel and sexually assaulted her. A court record implies the alleged assault happened on Aug. 28.

Knights of the Crystal Blade came to the attention of law enforcement in December. That’s when Coltharp and Shaffer hid Coltharp’s children from his ex-wife, triggering an Amber Alert and search that spread from Spring City in central Utah into the desert west of Cedar City, where Shaffer and the children were found in a makeshift home constructed from shipping containers.

Last month, Shaffer was sentenced in Iron County to 26 years to life in prison. He had pleaded guilty to child rape and abuse charges. Shaffer also faces child bigamy, child kidnapping and other charges in Sanpete County, where prosecutors say the men conducted secret marriages they thought were ordained by God before they decamped to the compound.

Shaffer said in court last month he is cooperating with investigators. Daniels said Shaffer helped build a case against Roe.

Shaffer “is cooperating and that’s where a lot of our information came from,” Daniels said.

(Pool Photo) John Coltharp did not accept a plea offer when he appeared in court on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018.

Daniels said other members of the Knights of the Crystal Blade are cooperating and are not suspected of sex crimes.

Coltharp is scheduled for trial July 9 in Sanpete County. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of sodomy, child bigamy, child kidnapping and obstruction of justice.