Member of Utah doomsday cult sentenced to 26-to-life in prison for child rape

CEDAR CITY, Utah (KSTU) – A member of a polygamous doomsday cult has been ordered to spend 26 years-to-life in prison for child rape and child abuse.

Sam Shaffer was ordered to spend 25 years-to-life in prison for the first-degree felony rape charge and another one-to-15 years in prison for abuse. Fifth District Court Judge Matthew Bell ordered him to serve the sentences consecutively.

“You’re not being sentenced for your religious views, you’re being sentenced for criminal conduct,” Judge Bell told him.

Shaffer was known as “the seer” in the apocalyptic group “Knights of the Crystal Blade.” He and his co-defendant, John Coltharp are accused of kidnapping children. After he was arrested, Shaffer told police in Iron County he was “betrothed” to Coltharp’s 8-year-old daughter. Shaffer also told police Coltharp was married to his 7-year-old daughter.


Photo: Iron County Jail

The children were the subject of an AMBER Alert last year before being found near Cedar City last year. Police found two of the children in a mobile home, and two others hiding in empty water barrels with temperatures dipping near freezing. Prosecutors contend the children would likely would have died.

In court, Shaffer revealed that he has agreed to testify against Coltharp but also said he contemplated suicide before doing so. Then he argued against the prosecution’s versions of events. His lawyer insisted that for Shaffer, this was not sexual but religious.

“I said, ‘Find me when you’re older’ and she said, ‘I love you,'” Shaffer cried, talking about his relationship with one of the children.

“If being crucified would make it better for her I would do it,” Shaffer said through tears.

He acknowledged “I do need help” and asked the judge to “give me the right judgment, even if that’s impossible.”

Shaffer’s mother pleaded with the judge for mental health treatment for her son, saying she would not excuse his actions but it was apparent he needed help.

“It did start as a religious thing, but I do accept culpability,” Shaffer told the court. “I am sorry.”

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