Eight underage girls – alleged members of a polygamous cult

Arrest in a Polygamous Town (2022 Trent Nelson)

Eight underage girls, who were rescued from an alleged polygamous cult, have been found hiding in an Airbnb after escaping from group homes.

Officials say the girls had been removed from the homes of Arizona cult leader Samuel Bateman last September and taken into the custody of the Arizona Department of Child Safety.

The girls, aged 11 to 16, disappeared from their new home outside Phoenix last Sunday, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

Authorities found them four days later at the Airbnb in Spokane, Wash., with a cult member named Moretta Rose Johnson, whom they tracked via a credit card linked to the booking.

The 19-year-old, who married the cult leader when she was underage, is now charged with kidnapping by federal authorities, according to the newspaper.

A 24-year-old woman was also arrested in connection with the missing girls in Colorado City, Arizona.

She was incarcerated in the Mohave County Jail on suspicion of kidnapping, obstructing a criminal investigation, resisting arrest and witness tampering, according to KXLY.

Mr Bateman, 46, is the leader of a splinter group from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, made infamous by imprisoned cult leader Warren Jeffs.

Bateman was once one of Jeffs’ trusted supporters, but was eventually reported by him from jail, according to at the Associated Press.

Samuel Rappylee Bateman, 46, of Colorado City, Arizona (Coconino County Sheriff's Office)

Samuel Rappylee Bateman, 46, of Colorado City, Arizona (Coconino County Sheriff’s Office)

An FBI affidavit said the eight fugitive girls, plus another girl, were removed from his homes on September 14 as part of a federal investigation into whether he had underage wives or had sex. with minors.

He has been in jail since August after three girls aged 11 to 14 were found locked in a trailer he was transporting near Flagstaff, Arizona.

The FBI affidavit says he had “about 50 followers and more than 20 wives, many of whom are minors, most under the age of 15.”

Polygamy is illegal in the United States, as is marrying before age 16 in Arizona without a judge’s permission. The court document says one of the girls was only nine years old.

Bateman has not been charged with any sexual abuse charges, but the FBI said in court documents it has probable cause to believe he and others transported minors between Arizona , Utah, Nevada and Nebraska for engaging in illicit sexual conduct between May 2020 and November 2021.

Authorities say they first received complaints about Mr Bateman in 2020 from the grandparents of several young girls he was accused of taking as wives.

The girls’ parents were interviewed in November 2020 and told officials they were fine with Mr Bateman and no charges were brought against him at that time.

Court documents point to allegations that he made sexual advances to his own daughter, bribing her with $50 and two bags of Doritos, and allegedly said that “if his feelings were right, he would do what a boy does to do [her] have a baby.”

Comments are closed.