Four children allegedly kidnapped by their father were found on Monday in Lund, Utah., after a tip led police to their locations, reported CBS News.
The children, two boys and two girls, were allegedly kidnapped by their father, who is described as a “doomsday prepper” who holds extreme fundamentalist Mormon beliefs, reported the Denver Post.
The boys were found first, and the two girls were later found in a “storage receptacle” where police said they were cold and shaken but otherwise unharmed. The sheriff’s office said the girls would have been unlikely to have survived the frigid night, reported CBS News.
They were found after the release of an Amber Alert and the arrest of their father as well as the religious “prophet” Samuel Shaffer, reported Fox 13.
The father, 33-year-old John Coltharp, is reportedly a member of a small fundamentalist Mormon group called the Knights of the Crystal Blade, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. Coltharp is reportedly an associate of the group’s leader, 34-year-old Shaffer, who has called himself “Samuel The Seer” online and has written lengthy transcriptions of “revelations” he says he received in 2015 from “either the Lord or his servants.”
Micha Soble, now 28, told the Denver Post that she married Coltharp when she was 16, after which she said he began “brainwashing” her about fundamentalist beliefs, including plural marriage.
The Mormon church largely ended its support of polygamy in 1890, and Soble told the Denver Post the church had excommunicated Coltharp for his extreme beliefs.
The couple divorced, and Soble eventually received full custody, reported CBS News.
But the Amber Alert was issued Monday after the children were allegedly kidnapped by their father, reported Fox 13. Coltharp was arrested late Saturday but refused to give the location of his children, who are all between four and eight years old, reported the Denver Post. Coltharp’s sister, Cindi Ray, told the Salt Lake Tribune she was worried the girls may have been hidden away to be given into marriage.
Police raided a religious compound in Iron County and found the two boys, but not the girls, reported CBS News. Family members expressed concern for the children’s safety, as they alleged Coltharp had said he would rather kill his children than have them taken away, and had threatened to kill child service officers if they tried to take them, reported the Salt Lake Tribune.
Police later found and arrested Shaffer, after which he was taken to the Iron County Jail on suspicion of reckless child abuse and kidnapping, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
A tip led police to the storage building where they found the girls, reported KUTV.
“If we hadn't received that tip today these girls probably wouldn't be alive in the morning. Their spirits are getting better and they're very talkative. They're very cute girls.... happy to see this ending with them,” Lieutenant Del Schlosser, of the Iron County Sheriff’s Office, told the station.