Self-styled prophet who promoted child marriage is sentenced

August 9, 2018 GMT

MANTI, Utah (AP) — A self-styled prophet who helped lead a Utah doomsday cult that believed in polygamy and promoted child marriage remained defiant Wednesday as he was sent to prison for at least 25 years.

John Coltharp, 35, told a judge he was following “heavenly laws” and was an Old Testament figure returned to Earth to promote child marriage, the Deseret News reported .

He maintained that it doesn’t matter how long he goes to prison because society won’t last much longer.

Judge Marvin Bagley told Coltharp his beliefs are wrong and don’t come from the Bible. He said he hopes Coltharp is never released from prison.

Coltharp pleaded guilty to sodomy and child bigamy charges in June. He could spend life in prison as he waits for a parole board to determine a possible release date.

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, authorities said.

The two have described the religious group a “fundamentalist group for millennials” that formed online.

Both men held the title of prophet at different points and each secretly married two young girls ages 4 through 8, according to prosecutors. The girls were related to the men.

Deputies discovered the four girls in barrels and an abandoned trailer on a makeshift compound of shipping containers in the Utah desert about 275 miles (440 kilometers) south of Salt Lake City in December 2017.

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

Shaffer is serving a prison sentence of at least 26 years and up to life following separate convictions related to the abuse.

A third man who authorities said joined the group after meeting its founders via Facebook, has also been charged with child sexual abuse, and police have said two other followers have cooperated with investigators.