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Sanpete County Jail

Warrants present new allegations in bizarre doomsday cult case

By Pat Reavy, KSL  |  Posted Feb 7th, 2018 @ 2:31pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — The father of two Spring City girls who allegedly kidnapped his children to join a purported doomsday cult may have been planning to kill his son because he believed he was possessed by an evil spirit, according to newly released search warrants.

Explosive new allegations were revealed Wednesday against John Alvin Coltharp and Samuel Warren Shaffer in a pair of search warrants filed in 6th District Court, including alleged plans to kidnap more children in preparation for the end of the world.

Shaffer, 34, of Cedar City, is the alleged leader of a religious group, the Knights of the Crystal Blade. Coltharp, 34, of Spring City, is one of his followers. Both men are charged with multiple felonies, including child bigamy, for allegedly marrying the other man's young daughter, according to charging documents.

In addition, James Shaffer — the father of Samuel Shaffer — was recently arrested and charged with obstructing justice for allegedly hiding Coltharp's children in his home and lying to police about it.

The bizarre series of events all began in mid-August when Coltharp and his wife separated. The estranged wife went to live in Utah County, while Coltharp stayed in Spring City, Sanpete County, with the couple's two sons and two daughters, between the ages of 8 and 4.

But by mid-September, police say Coltharp had loaded a U-Haul in the middle of the night and left with his children, vacating his house.

On Dec. 1, late at night, authorities found Coltharp back in his Spring City home. At that time, police say he refused to tell them where his children were.

"John refused to allow officers into the house to look for the children or to speak with his partner Sam who was inside. We knocked several times, loudly on the door, but did not get any response from Sam or anyone else inside the house," according to a search warrant affidavit.

In addition, Coltharp told the officers that "God had stricken" his ex-wife with cancer and that he was at the house to get a death certificate because she had died, according to the warrant.

But investigators wrote that Coltharp's ex-wife "is very much alive."

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Coltharp was arrested. Samuel Shaffer was pulled over by police shortly after leaving the house just after midnight on Dec. 2. He was not arrested and claimed not to know where the children were, according to police.

But new search warrants say the children were inside the house while police were questioning their father, and Shaffer had hidden them before he left in the car and was pulled over.

"He had led them out of the back of the residence while officers were talking with John in the front of the house. Sam continually urged the children to be quiet and stay in the dark shadows and near the weeds as to avoid detection," the warrant states. "While speaking to John Coltharp, Sam Shaffer lead the children to an old 1949 gasoline tanker … and hid them in the cab of the old truck."

The temperature that night dropped below 32 degrees, the warrant states.

"At the time of the Sam Shaffer traffic stop, the missing children were in an antique gasoline tanker truck about 50 feet from the traffic stop. They were afraid and did not let themselves be seen by officers," an affidavit states. "Sam did return to the tanker truck a short time later and led the children into a field to hide them and wait until his father from Nephi could come and pick them up."

James Shaffer picked up the children and took him to his house in Nephi, "and told (them) to be very quiet as not to disrupt or anger the neighbors," the warrant says.

Samuel Shaffer took the children back to Iron County later on Dec. 2. On Dec. 3, police interviewed James Shaffer, who "stated that he had no idea where the children were or anything about their location," according to the warrant.

Following an intensive search and an Amber Alert, Coltharp's children were found on Dec. 5 in a remote area of northern Iron County living in a "compound," that consisted mainly of storage units, according to police. Coltharp's two girls were found hidden in a plastic 50-gallon water barrel that Shaffer had made them stay in for at least 24 hours in subfreezing temperatures, charging documents state.

Shaffer's two daughters were also found "in poor health" in an abandoned mobile home "in deplorable living conditions," charges state.

After the children were found and interviewed, police went back to James Shaffer's house. He again denied hiding the children, the warrant states. On Jan. 31, James Shaffer was charged with obstructing justice, a class A misdemeanor, in 6th Distinct Court in Manti. An initial court appearance was held Wednesday.

When investigators arrived at the house to interview Shaffer, he "stated that he had property left there by John and Sam that he wanted to give to me. He said it was a couple of bags left by Sam and John that he did not want in his house and they were not his property. He also added that he did not want to be a part of 'this' anymore," the warrant states.

The contents of the bags included a computer and a notebook that Shaffer described as the "Coltharp family records," according to the warrant.

The officer who wrote the affidavit said he expected "to find in the Coltharp family records an entry for the marriage of Sam Shaffer" to one of Coltharp's daughters, "which will provide exact dates of the marriages."

A witness told federal investigators that Coltharp "keeps meticulous records" on his computer. Two laptops, external drives and thumb drives were seized.

Also in the records, police expected to find "possibly evidence in the revelations received and recorded on paper or computer for John Coltharp to murder his son. Statements received claim that John made comments that he was to kill his son because he was possessed by an evil spirit and that his son would then teach his mother the gospel in the spirit world," according to the warrant.

"John and Sam both believed that the end of the world was near. Also expected in the recorded notes or revelations is the plan by John and Sam to abduct more family children about the time of the anticipated Muslim invasion of the United States, which was imminent," the affidavit states.

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Pat Reavy, KSL
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