Prophet of Utah dooms­day cult pleads guilty to child bigamy

Times Colonist - - Canada / World -

SALT LAKE CITY — A self-styled prophet who helped lead a Utah dooms­day cult that be­lieved in polygamy pleaded guilty to sodomy and child bigamy charges in a cen­tral Utah court­room Wed­nes­day.

John Coltharp, 34, agreed to the plea deal in Manti, Utah, in ex­change for pros­e­cu­tors drop­ping kid­nap­ping and ob­struc­tion of jus­tice charges.

“I am guilty. That is a fact,” he said, ac­cord­ing to KUTV-TV .

A sen­tenc­ing hear­ing has been sched­uled for Aug. 8. He faces up to life in prison.

Coltharp and his friend Sa­muel W. Shaf­fer, 34, formed a group called the Knights of the Crys­tal Blade based on ar­cane Mor­mon ideas long aban­doned by the main­stream church.

Each man be­lieved him­self to be mar­ried to two young girls ages four through eight, ac­cord­ing to pros­e­cu­tors.

Pros­e­cu­tors said both men held the ti­tle of prophet at dif­fer­ent points.

Sher­iff’s deputies in­ves­ti­gat­ing the group in De­cem­ber dis­cov­ered the four girls in bar­rels and an aban­doned trailer on a makeshift com­pound of ship­ping con­tain­ers in the south­ern Utah desert, 440 kilo­me­tres south of Salt Lake City.

A mother of two of the girls had re­ported them miss­ing along with two of her sons. The men brought the chil­dren there months be­fore in prepa­ra­tion for an apoca­lypse or in hopes of gain­ing fol­low­ers, au­thor­i­ties said.

Shaf­fer pleaded guilty this year and was sen­tenced in May to up to life in prison.

A third man who joined the group af­ter meet­ing its founders on Face­book, Robert Shane Roe, 34, was charged with child sexual abuse last week.

Two other fol­low­ers are co-operating with in­ves­ti­ga­tors, but could face charges for ob­struc­tion of jus­tice in the fu­ture.

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