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Polygamous ‘prophet’ had more than 20 wives, many of them underage – FBI

According to the FBI, a self-declared “prophet” had over 20 wives, many of which were minors.

Samuel Rappylee Bateman, allegedly told his wifes that it was “Heavenly father’s will” that they engage in sex acts together. He also punished those who didn’t treat him as a prophet.

The 46-year-old was once a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), but he left to form his own small group near the Arizona-Utah frontier.

According to the FBI, he was financially supported by his male followers, who gave up their wives and children to become Bateman’s wives.

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After authorities had tracked down eight girls who were under Bateman’s custody but were taken into state custody in Arizona, the bureau filed an affidavit. It was filed to an Airbnb in Washington. According to the affidavit, the girls had escaped their Arizona group homes.

The court documents that were released in August provide new insight into what investigators found in the case.

It was accompanied by charges against three Bateman’s spouses – Naomi Bistline and Donnae Barlow – who were accused of kidnapping, impeding on a foreseeable prosecution.

More information about Arizona

Bistline, Barlow and Johnson are due to appear before Flagstaff, Arizona’s court, while Johnson awaits extradition from Washington.

They are charged with fleeing with eight Bateman children. The children were taken into Arizona state custody in the earlier part of this year.

Spokane, Washington was the location where the minors were discovered last week.

Image: Samuel Bateman’s family and friends. File pic: Trent Nelson/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP

Bateman was taken into custody in August after someone noticed his small fingers peeking through the trailer that he was driving through Flagstaff.

After posting bail, he was again arrested and charged with obstruction of justice in federal investigation into whether children were being moved across state lines to engage in sexual activity.

Although court records claim that Bateman was involved in child sex traficking and polygamy according to court records, none of his current charges are related to these allegations.

Sex crimes are not included in the most recent charges.

Although polygamy is still illegal in Arizona, it was made legal in Utah in 2020.


‘Self-proclaimed prophet’

In the case of women, the FBI affidavit focuses primarily on Bateman who declared himself to be a prophet in 2019.

Bateman claims that he was instructed by Warren Jeffs, an ex-leader of the FLDS, to invoke the “Spirit Of God” on these people.

This affidavit describes explicit sexual acts Bateman and his associates engaged in to fulfill “Godly obligations”.

Jeffs is currently serving a life sentence for child sex abuse in Texas prisons.

Image Warren Jeffs

Bateman was amongst a group of polygamous FLDS members, ex-church members and others who lived in Colorado City, Arizona.

Polygamy was a legacy of early teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, the main Mormon church has since abandoned this practice in 1890 and strictly prohibits multiple wives.

Authorities said that Bateman instructed his followers to get passports and to delete all messages through Signal’s encrypted messaging system Signal when he was arrested in January.

According to the FBI affidavit, he demanded that his followers confess to all indiscretions and shared them widely.

Bateman claimed these punishments, which included a “timeout” and public shame, were imposed by the Lord, according to the affidavit.

According to a police report, the three children that Bateman found with Flagstaff’s trailer had told authorities that they didn’t have any medical or health needs. The trailer was equipped with a toilet, a couch and camping chairs, as well as ventilation.

None of the Arizona girls in state custody were able to disclose that Bateman had sexually abused them during forensic interviews. However, one girl said that she was present during sexual activity.

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