Polygamist cult leader accused of kidnapping child brides arrested

  • A cult leader accused of marrying children has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping.
  • Sam Bateman was arrested in August after girls were found locked in a trailer he was towing.
  • FLDS’ Bateman has been indicted on new charges related to the abduction of these girls from state care.

Samuel Batmanthe 46-year-old leader of a polygamous splinter sect linked to cult leader Warren Jeffs, was in court this week where he faced new criminal charges alleging he orchestrated the kidnapping of nearly a dozen girls from children’s group homes in the state.

Bateman, a self-proclaimed prophet with the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was first arrested on state charges in August after three young girls were found hiding in a trailer of cargo that law enforcement said was towing on a highway in Flagstaff, Arizona – more than 1,000 miles from the FLDS stronghold in Colorado City.

Local officials then raided residences in Arizona used by Bateman – who has 20 wives, most of them children – and nine girls were placed in group homes by the United States Department of Child Safety. Arizona, according to the FBI.

Bateman pleaded not guilty to new charges in federal court in Phoenix, Arizona, on Wednesday after the FBI alleged he arranged for three of his adult wives to kidnap 8 of these underage girls from the group home. for children where they were cared for.

“On November 27, 2022, eight of nine underage women fled DCS group homes,” FBI special agent Dawn Martin wrote in an affidavit filed in federal courts in Washington and Arizona.

The FBI says Bateman conspired with three women – Moretta Johnson, Naomi Bistline and Donnae Barlow – to help the girls escape state care. They are accused of tampering with and destroying evidence and helping to kidnap the girls.

The women picked up the girls and then transported them to Spokane, Washington by car, where they were found Dec. 1 in an AirBnb, according to federal court documents.

Polygamy and sexual abuse

The FLDS has long been led by Warren Jeffs, a notorious cult leader who has led the group from prison since 2006.

Bateman, who for years had tried to force his way into Jeff’s inner circle, recently declared himself a prophet, one of Warren Jeffs’ sons once told Insider.

While most FLDS members still regard Jeff as the prophet, the FBI says Bateman now has a small group of 50 followers.

Although Bateman has not been charged with federal sex trafficking charges, an affidavit filed in the case details allegations of sexual abuse of underage girls in the cult.

When the girls were taken into state protection in September, federal investigators began examining some of their diaries, which had been seized from Bateman’s home.

The diary entries detailed kissing, sleeping with and touching Bateman, 46. In interviews with the FBI, informants detailed some of Bateman’s alleged treatment of his underage wives, including a wine-fueled orgy in which they were forced to watch him have sex with their father before being forced to have sex with other men.

An informant told investigators that Bateman had complained to some of his wives that another of his child-wives – no older than 10 – wet the bed. Bateman also told his own underage daughter that he was supposed to marry and impregnate her, and repeatedly kissed her inappropriately in front of other followers, according to the FBI report.

During initial forensic interviews, however, the girls did not report sexual abuse, and Martin said she believed the older girls were keeping the younger ones from talking.

It wasn’t until a day before Thanksgiving that one of the nine girls in state care said Bateman had sexually assaulted her, according to the FBI affidavit.

Days later, eight of the girls took off, prompting investigators to once again turn to the electronic devices and journals they left behind for answers.

They learned that the girls had communicated with Bateman’s older wives via an encrypted group chat on Signal.

In a diary entry on November 27, one girl wrote, “Today is the day we go home,” according to the affidavit.

A trial was scheduled for Bateman on January 10, but his lawyers have asked for more time to prepare.

Attorney Andrew Marcantel, who represents Bateman, told Insider he expects the trial to be postponed.

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