In a healthy marriage, you should be able to trust no one more than your partner. Ideally, you’d be able to confide in each other about everything. And once kids enter the equation, it’s important to know you can lean on one another to keep your family safe and happy.
Unfortunately, Utah resident Micha Soble wasn’t in a healthy marriage. As time went on, her husband, John Coltharp, was developing dangerous beliefs—and they were leading him to act in increasingly frightening ways. That’s when he did something totally unforgivable…
Utah resident Micha Soble was just 16 years old when she met her future husband, John Coltharp, in the suburban town of Highlands Ranch south of Denver, Colorado. They had both grown up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and they hit it off right away.
But their happiness wouldn’t last. Trouble arose when it became clear that John’s beliefs extended far beyond the doctrines of mainstream Mormonism—he claimed he was some sort of prophet. Eventually, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chose to banish him for his extreme views.
John’s beliefs ultimately led to the destruction of his marriage, too. He expressed a desire to disappear from society and live “off-the-grid,” something Micha had no interest in doing. Complicating matters, however, were their four children: Dinah, Seth, Hattie, and William.
Despite their crumbling marriage, the Micha and John still lived together. It was during this time that John really went off the deep end, forming a cult known as the Knights of the Crystal Blade. For Micha and the kids, the situation was clearly becoming dangerous.
This was no casual organization, either. The co-founder, Samuel Shaffer (pictured), claimed to have received teachings from God himself and was convinced that the apocalypse was imminent. Together, he and John would show they were capable of truly terrible things…
In September 2017, as John took the children on a trip to Spring City, Utah, where his parents lived 70 miles away, Micha began formal divorce proceedings. By November, she was awarded sole custody of their children. But there was one problem…
John still had the children with him at his parents’ house. Police accompanied Micha to bring the kids home, but by the time they arrived at the house, nobody was there—not John, not the children, not his parents. No one.
On December 1, 2017, the police finally located John and apprehended him on suspicion of kidnapping. Yet, even once he was in custody, he refused to reveal the locations of the children. Micha grew worried, as did Cindi Ray, John’s sister.
Then authorities received a tip that led them to Lund, Utah. With the help of helicopters, they located their target—a compound—in the middle of the desert. The site, which consisted of three worn-down trailers parked closely together, was a sinister-looking environment for children.
“[Coltharp and Shaffer] had manufactured this place for them to live,” Iron County Sheriff’s Lieutenant, Del Schlosser, said in an interview with The Washington Post. “It wasn’t the safest conditions, by any means, for where we are. They do not have any power at the residence. They have no heat.” But where were the children?
Finally, on December 4, seven-year-old William and six-year-old Seth were discovered at the compound. They were safe! Unfortunately, eight-year-old Dinah and four-year-old Hattie were still missing. Samuel and his own daughters were also nowhere to be found. The search continued…
An AMBER Alert was issued for Dinah, Hattie, and the other children. Authorities were then tipped off to a 34-year-old man a few miles away from the compound. After what must have felt like forever for Micha, Samuel was finally apprehended.
Once he was captured, Samuel told the police where to find the four missing girls. Police located two of them in a trailer—and the others were hidden in empty water barrels. It had been at least 24 hours since any of them had been given food or water.
“Had we not received that tip today,” Lieutenant Del Schlosser said, “these girls probably wouldn’t have been alive in the morning.” Thank goodness for the AMBER Alert—and for the police officers’ diligence…
After John and Samuel were arrested, horrifying details about the children’s abduction were revealed. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that John had actually promised one of his daughters to Samuel in exchange for a similar pledge from Samuel. It got worse…
Samuel said that he had actually already “married” Dinah, while John had done the same with one of Samuel’s daughters, who was just seven at the time. As disgusting as this was, it fell in line with what the authorities knew about the men’s beliefs.
On January 8, 2018, both men were charged with crimes that had allegedly taken place before the raid in December: reportedly engaging in sexual activity with a child. If there was any good news, it was that the Coltharp children were finally reunited with their mother.
Despite their ordeal, the kids were apparently doing well. “It took three baths to get their hair unmatted,” Micha told Utah’s KSTU Fox 13. “They are happy to be clean and brushing their teeth again. They are also happy to have a warm place to sleep at night.”
That being said, Dinah, William, Seth, and Hattie would likely still need a significant adjustment period. “[Although] they are in high spirits, [they] will need some help,” Micha added. At the very least, they’re finally safe again…
The thought of children being kidnapped by a cult leader and self-proclaimed profit is terrifying enough, but the fact that he was their own father is heartbreaking. At least the children are back in safe hands. Hopefully, the healing process will be as painless as possible.
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