The Knights of the Crystal Blade is not a group many people have heard of. Like many doomsday-type groups that are scattered throughout Utah, they like to keep hidden from mainstream society. Instead, these groups focus their time on studying biblical prophecy, stockpiling food and supplies, and generally preparing for the end times. To most people, these groups are no real threat. Sure, their beliefs may seem a little odd to outsiders, but for the most part, they just want to be left alone. However, in spite of their general disconnection from mainstream society, occasionally we hear news of these groups on account of their trouble with law enforcement. In the case of the Knights of the Crystal Blade, the group began receiving mainstream attention when their alleged leader was accused of kidnapping four children.
On December 4, 2017, Fox 13 reported that an Amber Alert had been issued for two young girls, ages 4 and 8, when their mother reported to police that the girls’ father, John Alvin Coltharp, may have taken them to a religious compound he was associated with.
“They are with a man that calls himself Samuel ‘The Seer,’” the children’s mother told Fox 13. “His name is Samuel Warren Shaffer and he believes he holds the keys of this dispensation and he has been many people throughout the history of time and that he has been reincarnated. They are following his prophecies and I believe he is with them and helping hide the children.”
Coltharp, who did not have custody of the children, had refused to release the children or disclose their whereabouts after a judge granted their mother full custody. Reports indicate that the children had been with Coltharp since sometime in September. A judge had Coltharp placed in jail, but he refused to tell investigators where the children were. Instead, he left them in the care of Shaffer who, in turn, took the children to the religious compound both men had been associated with.
This alert would be called off within hours of it being issued after authorities raided the group’s compound and found the two girls hiding in 50-gallon plastic barrels. According to police, the girls were left in the barrels in subzero temperatures overnight and had not been dressed for cold weather.
In addition to the two girls, two other children, ages 5 and 7, were found hiding in an old camper trailer. These kids were identified as Shaffer’s own children. All four of the children were reported to be cold and hungry at the time of their discovery, but in otherwise “good condition.”
While many media reports have indicated that Shaffer played a vital role within the group and was considered to be a leader of the organization, Mark Tyson Trent Lichtenwalter, who claims he is the leader of the group and maintains the group’s online presence, refutes these claims.
Other accusations included kidnapping the children for the purpose of forcing them to become child brides – as some fringe Mormon groups like members of the FLDS and their leader Warren Jeffs have been charged with – as well as accusations of polygamy.
Lichtenwalter claims that while they believe in polygamy, it is not a required practice of the group and in no way do they condone taking on child brides. He also says that the two men who have been arrested, Shaffer and Coltharp, had been ex-communicated from the group until Shaffer reached out and asked to speak with him the day before the police raided the group’s compound.
While we don’t currently know enough about the group to substantiate some of the claims that have been made against them, what we do know is that Shaffer and Coltharp are currently sitting behind bars.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Shaffer has been charged with two counts of kidnapping and four counts of reckless child abuse. Coltharp has also been booked on charges including suspicion of kidnapping and obstructing justice after he refused to tell a judge where his daughters were prior to the raid.
After their rescue, the children were taken to a local hospital for treatment. A 5-year-old was taken to a primary care hospital for further evaluation. No word on any of the children’s conditions at this time.