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Police claim religious leader offered 4-year-old as a child bride to follower

SALT LAKE CITY (News4Utah) - John Coltharp was offering a 4-year-old girl to a prospective member of his religious group.

The allegation stems from a police investigation involving Coltharp's own children and the children of his second-in-command Samuel Shaffer.

The prosecutor Sanpete County said Coltharp is the leader of the group which calls itself the Knights of the Crystal Blade.

"They were expecting the end of the world and they were arranging to re-populate it," said Spring City police chief Clarke Christensen.

Spring City police arrested Coltharp for child kidnapping last month.  Shaffer was arrested in Iron County where he allegedly held the children captive in large storage containers used as a shelter. Shaffer was also charged with child kidnapping and child abuse.  This week, the Sanpete County filed charges of sodomy of a child against Coltharp.

Thursday, the Deputy Sanpete County Attorney Kevin Daniels told News4Utah that Coltharp and Shaffer married each other's 8-year-old daughters and then married their own 4-year old daughters.

As leader of the group, Christensen said he offered Shaffer's four-year old daughter to a prospective follower.

"When he met with them they offered him a 4-year-old to be a bride of his," said Christensen.  "He did his best to get out of there.  He didn't want anything to do with them."

An attorney who helped the mother of the Shaffer's children get a divorce, never saw this coming.
"Your rarely expect something like this to happen," said Dan Spencer with the non-profit group Open Legal Services.

He said he talked with the maternal grandparents of the Shaffer children Friday.

"(They're handling this) about as well as can be expected," said Spencer. "It's very shocking and disturbing to hear about the allegations and obviously everybody is concerned about what's happening to the kids."

He said the Shaffer's had joint custody of the children but it is under seal in the juvenile court system.

"It's highly unlikely the dad will have any contact with the kids," Spencer said. "Generally, you'll have the state come in and take temporary custody of them."

He said there will be a hearing for the state to present their case to the juvenile judge as to why they are taking temporary custody of the children.

"After that, there will be another hearing as to where they should stay long-term," Spencer said.

He said the judge has options to keep the children in foster care, with a relative or even the mother.

But after the children have settled in, experts said they will need specialized treatment. Dr. Douglas Goldsmith, a psychologist at the Children's Center in Salt Lake City said the children can overcome this but they will need specialized treatment.

"Yes they can (heal) if they're given trauma treatment," said Dr. Goldsmith.  "And that's very important.  That's why it's important to call it trauma."

He said trauma treatment helps a child work through what they were told. Often times, children are told lies about their own situation.

"What we see is that they (children) start to disassociate which means their minds literally transport to a very different place that feels safe," Dr. Goldsmith said.

He said the escape mechanism children use, needs to be treated so that they don't go through life disassociated.

"Fortunately we do have treatments," he said.  "We have trauma treatments that are evidence based that we know make a difference and can help kids like this."

 


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