Former cult leader pleads guilty to child rape

CEDAR CITY (News4Utah) - A former cult leader accused of taking a child bride pleaded guilty to child rape and child abuse.

Samuel Warren Shaffer appeared in court Wednesday. He faces 25 years to life in prison for child rape and 15 years for child abuse.

"Well, I think this is a great outcome for the State of Utah, for the victims in this case. It's the maximum sentence allowed under law for this offense," said Iron County Attorney Scott Garrett.

Authorities say Shaffer, along with fellow cult leader John Coltharp, claimed to lead a self-proclaimed religious group called Knights of the Crystal Blade. The two men are accused of kidnapping their own children, who were rescued by authorities in December after an Amber Alert was issued.

Authorities say Shaffer and Coltharp married each others 7 and 8-year-old daughters

"The main driving force behind this, or in accepting this plea deal, was Mr. Shaffer's concern for the children, putting them through any other harm or any re-victimization," said Troy Sundquist, Iron County Public Defender.

Shaffer's sentencing is scheduled for April 10. Additional charges could be filed.


If you suspect child abuse or neglect contact the DCFS 24/7 hotline: 855-323-3127. For more information, visit

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