What happened to Bateman’s underage wives since his arrest
Samuel Batmanthe leader of a new, small offshoot of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was arrested in an FBI raid on September 13 on charges of child abuse and destruction of evidence.
Since then, nine girls – identified in court documents as brides taken by Bateman, aged 11 to 16 – and his adult wives have traveled to several states, keeping in touch with their imprisoned polygamist leader through phone calls. video.
Court documents filed this week revealed that the nine girls who were evicted from Bateman residences in Colorado City in September were placed in group homes in Phoenix by the state of Arizona.
Eight of the nine girls ran away from custody last week. A few days later they were found at an Airbnb in Spokane, with one of Bateman’s adult wives. They were found after using a credit card linked to a company linked to the FLDS subsidiary.
The girls used an encrypted group chat to communicate with each other and their escape was facilitated by other young adult brides, according to court documents filed in the Eastern District of Washington state. Authorities believe Bateman has around 20 wives and 50 followers.
When Bateman was arrested, he was taken into federal custody in Arizona, where he remains. Nine girls, including the eight who were abducted, were taken into custody by the Arizona Department of Child Safety on September 14.
The girls were interrogated and placed in group homes until a dependency proceeding determined the suitability of their parents or guardian to care for them. None of the girls disclosed sexual abuse by Bateman, although at least one said she was present and partially naked for one of his “sex orgies”, according to federal documents.
A federal agent scheduled additional interviews for five girls who mentioned “sleeping with Bateman, kissing him and touching him” in diaries seized during the September search. The girls refused to participate fully in the interviews, and the federal agent said they believed some of the older girls were “influencing” the younger ones not to talk about Bateman.
To avoid undue influence, the girls were separated from each other and kept only with their siblings when placed in group homes, according to the filing. One of the girls was revealed to have been sexually abused by Bateman while in a group home, according to court documents.
On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, eight of the nine girls held by DCS in Arizona ran away from their group home. Diaries and electronic devices left behind indicated they were still in group chat with some of the adult wives using Signal, an encrypted instant messaging app.
Most of their communications were not stored digitally, but there were references in the girls’ journals stating “today is the day we go home”.
At around 8:38 p.m. on the night the girls fled, Bateman made a recorded video call from federal custody to one of his young adult wives, who is charged in the complaint. Federal documents say the video shows this woman driving with another young adult woman in the passenger seat holding the phone.
The woman in the passenger seat tells Bateman they have two daughters, whom they call codenames “E1 and E2,” according to court documents. Later in the video, the passenger’s wife tells Bateman that all the women have changed their last names to Rappylee Bateman to match his.
“I’m madly in love with you,” he replies in the video to the two adult wives up front and the two underage wives, using their new full names.
The next day around 7:30 a.m., Bateman made another video call from federal custody to one of the adult wives who had been in the passenger seat the night before. She appears to be in a hotel room, according to federal documents, and Bateman asked if “W2” – a code name for one of the other underage brides – was with them.
The code name referred to the only young girl who did not flee from Arizona DCS custody. Documents indicate that she is between 11 and 12 years old and Bateman took her as his wife in May 2020. The wife replied that she was the only girl not with them, but that “they tried “, according to court documents.
Throughout the video call, the camera pans from the two adult women to the eight girls who have been taken away. Bateman tells the wives to “take this girl” and that she needs to be with them, explaining how it “puts a strain on him when they’re scattered and he needs everyone to be together.”
During one of the calls Bateman made to the girls, he asked if they were in “our condition,” and they told him they weren’t. They explain that only “the mothers are in Arizona and are heading to New Mexico with the babies.”
Bateman also made video calls to another wife, 19-year-old Moretta Rose Johnson, who was in a hotel room with her baby and at least one of Bateman’s other adult wives. It is not known where the hotel room was. Officials believe Johnson married Bateman when she was under 18, according to the affidavit.
The women and girls interviewed speak of being on the move, according to court documents, and officials believe they were traveling in at least three separate groups. During a call on the night of November 28, one of the women talks about cleaning one of the vehicles and being able to “swap”, although it is not known who this woman was.
The FBI learned that a credit card belonging to one of the spouses’ cousins had been used to purchase an Airbnb.
So on Nov. 28, an emergency disclosure request was made to Airbnb to provide the addresses reserved by the cousin or any associated accounts, since he had previously reserved homes for group members, according to court documents.
On November 30, Airbnb provided an address in Spokane for a new reservation made from November 29 to December 29. 2. On December 1, a sergeant from the Spokane Sheriff’s Department knocked on the address provided. Whoever was inside didn’t answer the door.
The occupants then attempted to leave the house in a vehicle. The officer stopped the vehicle and identified the eight missing girls being driven by Johnson.
Johnson has since been arrested and is charged with kidnapping in a federal complaint. One of two other women named in the lawsuit was arrested Thursday in Colorado City. The status of the third wife is unclear.
We don’t know where the girls are now. Various Arizona police departments did not respond to requests for comment from the Salt Lake Tribune.
KXLY.comaffiliated with KXLY-TV Ch. 4 in Spokane, also reported on Friday that the girls’ location was not known.