An Arizona-based cult leader stands accused of having at least 20 wives, according to an affidavit — and in addition to many of them being under 15 years of age, and he is suspected to have attempted to marry his own daughter.
According to the affidavit, filed Friday by the FBI in Spokane, Washington, Samuel Rappylee Bateman, 46, is accused of marrying more than 20 women and girls — the youngest of whom was just nine years old. Bateman was the leader of a small sect of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that embraced polygamy.
The Salt Lake Tribune obtained the affidavit and published it on Saturday, revealing that Bateman and several co-conspirators had been accused of a litany of sex crimes against minors as well as tampering with evidence and attempting to obstruct the investigation into their conduct.
Bateman, according to the affidavit, felt “prompted” to marry his own teenaged daughter in 2019. His wife and daughter left the home following that revelation, but he and several followers began collecting girls in the months that followed. He is accused of both directing and participating in a number of sex acts with the girls.
In one instance, Bateman allegedly gave three of the girls — one of whom was just 12 at the time —to three adult male followers, claiming that they had “sacrificed their virtue for the Lord.” He then reportedly claimed, “God will fix their bodies and put the membrane back in their body. I’ve never had more confidence in doing his will. It’s all out of love.”
The saga began in September, when officials first raided Bateman’s home in Colorado City, Arizona, after which the state’s Department of Child Safety (DCS) removed nine girls — aged 11 to 16 — from the group’s followers. The girls were placed in group homes near Phoenix, but eight of them went missing on the same day in late November.
A Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy found all of the girls on Thursday, after they traced the credit card information from an Airbnb rental, and the 19-year-old driving the vehicle — identified as Moretta Rose Johnson — was accused in the complaint of kidnapping.
Another of Bateman’s followers, a 24-year-old woman, was also arrested in Colorado City on Thursday, after a phone call from Bateman in jail linked her to the plot to kidnap the girls from the group homes. She was booked at Mohave County jail for a number of charges ranging from kidnapping and resisting arrest to obstructing a criminal investigation.