COPS are investigating a bizarre “doomsday prepper” cult after kidnapped children were found hidden in water barrels, shipping containers and an abandoned trailer at a remote compound.
Police in Utah also told Sun Online they were looking into claims that two of the kidnapped girls – aged 8 and 4 – were to be “married” to the so-called prophet of the “Knights of the Crystal Blade” sect Samuel Shaffer.
Mum Micha Coltharp reported that her four children Seth, 6, William 7, Dinah, 8, and Hattie, 4, had been kidnapped by their dad John Coltharp – who she was divorcing – back in September.
She told authorities that “doomsday prepper” Coltharp had taken the kids, along with his parents Keith and Catherine, to join Shaffer and the Knights of the Crystal Blade – which she said was a religious survivalist sect.
Coltharp, 33, was arrested last Friday but refused to give the location of his children and an Amber Alert was issued.
Police in Iron County, Utah, later discovered a remote compound made up of shipping containers, where they found the two kidnapped boys – Seth and William – and their grandparents.
Officers were told that Shaffer, 34, had taken the two Coltharp girls Dinah and Hattie – along with his own daughters Lily, 7, and Samantha, 5, to sleep in a tent near the compound.
After a huge search air and land search, Shaffer was found wandering alone on a dirt track and arrested on Monday.
He gave cops the general location of Lily and Hattie, who were found that night hidden in a blue water barrel in subfreezing temperatures.
The 34-year-old initially refused to reveal the location of the other two girls – Dinah and Samantha – but they were finally found around an hour later in an abandoned trailer in “poor health”.
“Shaffer stated the children had been placed in the water barrels to conceal or hide them from being found by searching law enforcement,” Iron County Sheriff’s Office said.
“At this time it appears the children had spent approximately 24 hours inside the barrel in subfreezing temperatures.
“These two children were not properly dressed for the cold temperatures and did not have food or water at that time.
“Shaffer also made statements he had left a firearm behind on the ground next to the barrel.”
The two boys were checked by doctors and interviewed by police.
All four girls were taken to hospital and later released except the youngest child Samantha who remains in an “unknown” condition.
The four Coltharp children have now been reunited with their mother, according to police.
Lieutenant Del Schlosser told Sun Online that they were now investigating the Knights of the Crystal Blade cult – including claims that John Coltharpe planned to marry his two daughters to Shaffer.
“This is all part of the investigation which is still under way,” he said.
“The only known information [about the Knights of the Crystal Blade] at this time is what has been located on the web.
“Samuel has not provided anything to us.”
The Knights of the Crystal Blade is believed to be a fundamentalist Mormon offshoot which believes the world is going to end.
Shaffer claimed that God handed him down religious teachings which he wrote down on a website called The Kingdom of God or Nothing.
According to his ramblings on the website, he appears to believe in plural marriage – even for children.
Police Chief Clarke Christensen, from Spring City where the Coltharpe children are from, told Sun Online: “The kids are all back with their mother.
“The [Knights of the Crystal Blade] group may be limited to the people we already have in custody – it may be a very small group but we will investigate for any criminal activity and proceed from there.”
Shaffer is being held on two counts of kidnapping and four counts of child abuse and Coltharp has been charged with kidnapping and obstruction of justice.