A police search for missing children that had been ongoing since September came to a happy conclusion on Tuesday, as all children considered kidnapped by their polygamous cult co-founder fathers were brought to safety.
New video has emerged showing the rescue of the young girls who had yet to be found, two of whom were stored in 50-gallon water barrels and two others who were kept in a mobile home.
The day before, on Monday, two boys were rescued at the cult compound.
Police said two of the girls were considered to be kidnapping victims after their father dropped off the grid with them and their two brothers in mid-September.
The four girls, aged 4 through 8, were found cold and dehydrated but uninjured, two in 50-gallon water barrels and two others were in an abandoned mobile home, after deputies combed the desert on Monday, Iron County Sheriff’s Lt. Del Schlosser said.
John Coltharp, 33, disappeared with his two daughters and two sons in mid-September after meeting Samuel Shaffer, 34, who also had two daughters, police said. They called themselves the Knights of The Crystal Blade.
Shaffer, described as a self-styled prophet, was charged Tuesday with child kidnapping and other counts. He did not yet have an attorney listed in the court documents.
His brother, Benjamin Shaffer, said his family has been traumatized by the revelations. He said Samuel Shaffer was not a polygamist or part of an established group and questioned the characterization of the area compound.
CBS Denver reported that an amber alert led to them receiving a crucial tip that may have saved 8-year-old Dina and 4-year-old Hattie Coltharp, who were the ones stored in water barrels.
The two were cold and dehydrated, and Iron County Sheriff’s Lt. Del Schlosser said they likely would have died if not for the tip.
“Had we not received that tip today, these girls probably would not have been alive in the morning,” he said.
They were put in barrels to hide them from police. This lasted 24 hours and temperatures were below freezing. Samantha Shaffer, 5, and Lily Shaffer, 6, were also recovered at the scene.
The day before, William and Seth Coltharp were rescued.
John Coltharp and his wife Micha had been married about 10 years and shared four children, but the marriage fell apart and the two lived as if they were separated.
Then came September, when Coltharp took the kids and didn’t come back.
The children are currently being treated at the hospital.
While Shaffer faces charges of kidnapping and child abuse, Coltharp faces kidnapping and obstruction of justice charges. It’s not immediately clear how much time behind bars they face.
The Associated Press contributed to this report