Self-proclaimed 'prophet' in custody after two missing girls found safe

A Utah man believed to be the head of a new religious sect allegedly hid two young girls in 50-gallon barrels for almost 24 hours in freezing temperatures and kept another two in an abandoned mobile home, authorities said.

The girls, 4-year-old Hatti and 8-year-old Dina, were found alone in a building outside the town of Lund on Monday night.

Shaffer is believed to be the "prophet" of the group, according to sheriff officials. Their father, John Coltharp, was already in custody.

The discovery of the children came days after Coltharp was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and child abuse.

Authorities sent Samantha Shaffer by helicopter to Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City, where she remained on Wednesday, he said.

Lt. Del Schlosser of the Iron County Sheriff's Office said the Amber Alert system "was key in locating Mr. Shaffer and recovering the girls".

Their grandfather Steve Sobel said the girls were found in 50 gallon water barrels without any food, water or proper clothing for the cold temperatures. They were found dehydrated and in poor health inside an abandoned single-wide mobile home nearby.

Shaffer had left the compound near Lund on foot Sunday around 4 p.m. and spent that night with the four girls in a tent, Schlosser said. The other three children have since been released. He claims God told him during a revelation on June 22, 2015, that the Book of Mormon is law.

Soble's attorney also told the Salt Lake Tribune her ex-husband "stated, according to [Soble's] understanding, that he would rather see the kids dead than with the police".

His family believed he and 34-year-old Samuel Shafer had formed a religious cult called Knights of the Crystal Blade on the website 'The Kingdom of God or Nothing!', outlining a religious doctrine which supported polygamy and marrying children.

Micha Coltharp had legal custody of the children after a recent divorce. Deputies spoke with those grandparents at their makeshift residence, where they later found two of the missing children.

Coltharp is said to be a survivalist and "doomsday prepper" who doesn't believe in modern medicine, according to court documents. He had fled to an unknown location with the children, as well as his parents.

Authorities raided a suspected sect compound and located the girls and their brothers.

Their disappearance sparked a desperate search by Coltharp's ex-wife, and an Amber Alert followed.



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