Two young girls were rescued after their “doomsday prepper” father allegedly kidnapped them in September to give them as brides to his cult leader, authorities told local news.
John Coltharp, 33, ran away with his two daughters and two sons after meeting self-proclaimed prophet Samuel Shaffer, 34. The men called themselves the Knights of the Crystal Blade.
On Monday, four girls, two belonging to John Coltharp, 33, and two to Shaffer, were found in a makeshift compound in a rural area in Lund, Utah, police said. They had been left more than 24 hours without food or water and they were not properly dressed for the zero-degree temperatures.
Two were found in an abandoned mobile home and the younger girls were found inside 50-gallon water barrels. They were cold and dehydrated but appeared to be uninjured.
Coltharp’s two sons were found at another compound earlier on Monday.
Shaffer, the leader of the fundamentalist polygamous cult, wanted Hattie Coltharp, 4, and Dinah Coltharp, 8, to be his wives, the children’s relatives claim.
Their mother, Micha Soble, said she had not seen her daughters since her now ex-husband disappeared with them and the couple's two sons, William, 7, and Seth, 6, shortly before she filed for divorce.
She had also requested a temporary restraining order and custody of her four children out of fear they would "suffer immediate and irreparable harm" if allowed to be with their father.
Soble claimed that her estranged husband is "a doomsday prepper who believes that the world will soon come to an end," and he had fled to an unknown location with the children and his parents, according to court records.
Coltharp was arrested Friday on kidnapping charges but he refused to give up his daughters’ location, even when offered to be released on his own recognizance, authorities said. Shaffer told police where to find the children after he was taken into custody.
Both men are being held in separate Utah jails; Coltharp faces kidnapping and obstruction of justice charges and Shaffer is held on four charges of child abuse and two counts of kidnapping.