Polygamist ‘prophet’ accused of marrying 20 women and girls, including his own daughter, hauling some of them around in windowless trailer with bucket for toilet

News & Politics

A self-described “prophet” of his own radical splinter sect of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is in custody and facing federal and local charges after police said he endangered the lives of children by towing them inside a squalid trailer.

Back on August 28, a state trooper in northern Arizona noticed that an SUV with a trailer had pulled off to the side of I-40. When he took a closer look, the trooper said he saw “children’s small fingers moving in the gap of the rear trailer door,” a sign that the driver of the SUV was hauling the trailer with young children inside.

When the trooper investigated further, he discovered that the trailer was, indeed, “full of people including children.” The trailer also contained a couch, various personal items, and a makeshift toilet from a bucket, but no windows or air vents, the trooper alleged.

Screen shot of Fox 10 Phoenix YouTube video

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Fox 10 Phoenix reported that area temperatures soared to 106 degrees that day.

In all, there were three girls between the ages of 11 and 14 in the trailer and two more under 15 in the SUV. There were also two adult women in the SUV.

Screen shot of Fox 10 Phoenix YouTube video

The trooper arrested the driver, 46-year-old Samuel Rappylee Bateman, who claims to lead a splinter FLDS group in Colorado City, Arizona, where he lives. Bateman was booked in the Coconino County Jail in Flagstaff on three counts of child abuse and released.

But his legal troubles did not end there. On September 13, the FBI then raided Bateman’s Colorado City home after agents claimed that, while he was still in state custody, Bateman demanded that some of his followers delete their communications from the messaging app, Signal. For those alleged demands, Bateman was slapped with three federal counts of destroying or attempting to destroy records and tampering with criminal proceedings.

Still, the affidavit submitted by FBI Agent Dawn A. Martin alleges that Bateman’s malfeasance extends well beyond tampering with evidence. According to Martin, Bateman has repeatedly engaged in heinous acts of sexual abuse and child sex trafficking under the guise of spiritual leadership. Though Bateman has not yet been charged with any sex-related crime, the affidavit states that prosecutors have probable cause to believe that, between May 2020 and November 2021, he transported minors around Arizona, Utah, Nevada and Nebraska for the explicit purpose of trafficking them sexually.

The affidavit also states that Bateman has amassed “approximately 50 followers and more than 20 wives, many of whom are minors, mostly under the age of 15.” Some of the girls he supposedly married were just 9 years old at the time. He even discussed marrying his own teenage daughter in 2019, the report claims.

Bateman also sexually trafficked several of his daughters to some of his male followers, the affidavit alleges. In November 2021, he supposedly bragged to a Colorado City couple that “Heavenly Father” had instructed him to avail three men of the sexual services of three of his daughters, one of whom was just 12.

“God will fix their bodies and put the membrane back in their body,” Bateman supposedly said at the time. “I’ve never had more confidence in doing his will. It’s all out of love.”

Bateman faces up to 60 years for the current federal charges and perhaps up to 10 years on the state child abuse charges, if convicted, AZ Central reported.

Law enforcement has since removed nine minor girls from Bateman’s home while the investigation continues. Those girls had been placed in various group homes in Arizona, but last weekend, eight of them were reported missing. By Thursday, all eight had been found in an Airbnb near Spokane, Washington.

Moretta Rose Johnson, 19, who supposedly married Bateman before she turned 18, was charged with kidnapping the girls. Two other women have been charged with kidnapping in the incident as well.

Though the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints actively promoted polygamy when it was founded, the LDS church banned the practice in 1890, and most mainstream Mormons openly denounce it. Polygamy is illegal in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Guam, and Puerto Rico.

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