3 of polygamous “prophet” leader’s 20 wives charged with kidnapping: “These women have proven that they will stop at nothing”

Federal authorities on Wednesday charged three of a self-declared prophet’s wives with kidnapping and impeding a foreseeable prosecution after eight women related with the polygamous group fled from state foster care.

Naomi Bistline and Donnae Barlow appeared in federal Justice of the Peace court docket in Flagstaff on Wednesday. They stay jailed and have court docket hearings scheduled subsequent week. Moretta Rose Johnson is awaiting extradition from Washington state.

Samuel Bateman, the chief of the small polygamous group on the Arizona-Utah border, had taken at least 20 wives, most of them minors, and punished followers who didn’t deal with him as a prophet, newly filed federal court docket paperwork present.

Naomi Bistline arrives at the federal courthouse in Flagstaff, Ariz., on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022. 

Jake Bacon / AP


The submitting offers perception into what investigators have present in a case that first grew to become public in August.

The FBI affidavit filed within the women’s case facilities on Bateman, who proclaimed himself a prophet in 2019. Authorities wrote that Bateman orchestrated sexual acts involving minors and gave wives as items to his male followers, claiming to take action on orders from the “Heavenly Father.” The males supported Bateman financially and gave him their very own wives and younger daughters as wives.

Bateman, 46, has pleaded not responsible to state little one abuse prices and federal prices of tampering with proof. A trial on the federal prices is scheduled for January. He stays imprisoned in Arizona.

Bateman was a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, till he left in recent times and began his personal small offshoot group, mentioned Sam Brower, who has spent years investigating the group. Bateman was as soon as among the many trusted followers of imprisoned chief Warren Jeffs, however Jeffs denounced Bateman in a written revelation despatched to his followers from jail, Brower mentioned.

Jeffs is serving a life sentence in Texas for little one intercourse abuse associated to underage marriages.

Samuel Rappylee Bateman was booked into jail in September 2022 on three counts of little one abuse.

Coconino County Sheriff’s Office


The FLDS is itself a breakaway sect of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, broadly often called the Mormon Church. Polygamy is a legacy of the early teachings of the mainstream church, however it deserted the follow in 1890 and now strictly prohibits it.

Federal officers contend Bateman engaged in horrific acts with kids and known as upon his followers to assist cover his tracks. His followers say federal officers have falsely accused him and declare one thing else is at play.

Barlow’s sister, Alice Barlow, mentioned the group is supportive, kids are pleased and wives think about one another sisters. She mentioned Bateman is a “sweet, gentle spirit,” who teaches that forgiveness and repentance are inside attain.

“What they’re trying to do is annihilate a religion,” she instructed The Associated Press following Wednesday’s listening to. “Samuel is a prophet and a savior in this world. He hasn’t done wrong. They’ve got to realize that God will defend his prophet.”

According to the FBI affidavit, Bateman demanded that his followers confess publicly for any indiscretions, and shared these confessions broadly. He claimed the punishments, which ranged from a trip to public shaming and sexual exercise, got here from the Lord, the affidavit states. Bateman lived in Colorado City, a group that straddles the border between Arizona and Utah, amongst a patchwork of religious members of the polygamous FLDS, ex-FLDS members and people who do not follow the beliefs. Bateman and his followers imagine polygamy brings exaltation in heaven.

He as soon as tried to take his solely daughter as a spouse, however she instructed her mom about her father’s plan and the mom and daughter moved out and acquired a restraining order towards Bateman. The mom was Bateman’s solely spouse in 2019, earlier than Bateman began taking extra wives.

Bateman was first arrested in August when somebody noticed small fingers within the hole of a trailer he was hauling via Flagstaff. Police discovered three women, between 11 and 14, in a makeshift room within the unventilated trailer.

The women instructed authorities they did not have any well being or medical wants, in response to an Arizona Department of Public Safety report.

Bateman posted bond however was arrested once more in September and charged with obstructing justice in a federal investigation into whether or not kids had been being transported throughout state strains for sexual exercise. Authorities mentioned that following his first arrest he instructed his followers to acquire passports and to delete messages despatched via an encrypted messaging app.

“Bateman did so in order to obstruct, influence, and impede an investigation and prosecution in federal court,” federal prosecutors said when saying the indictment in September. He was charged with destruction of information or an try to destroy information in an official continuing; tampering or trying to tamper with an official continuing; and destruction of information in a federal investigation.

Alice Barlow mentioned the household already was planning to get passports for a household journey to Mexico, to not evade authorities.

At the time of the September arrest, authorities eliminated 9 kids from Bateman’s house in Colorado City and positioned them in foster care.

None of the women, recognized by their initials in court docket paperwork, disclosed sexual abuse by Bateman throughout forensic interviews, although one mentioned she was current throughout sexual exercise, in response to the FBI affidavit. But a number of of the women wrote in journals that had been seized by the FBI about intimate interactions with Bateman. Authorities imagine the older women influenced the youthful ones to not discuss Bateman, the FBI mentioned.

Eight of the youngsters later escaped from foster care, and the FBI alleged Bistline, Barlow and Johnson – all family members of the youngsters in addition to Bateman’s present or former wives – performed an element in getting them out of Arizona. The women had been discovered final week, a whole lot of miles away in Spokane, Washington, in a automobile that Johnson was driving, the FBI affidavit mentioned.

In court docket Wednesday, Barlow’s lawyer mentioned her shopper was solely doing what she believed was proper. The lawyer, Roberta McVickers, added that Barlow would observe no matter orders the court docket points.

Donnae Barlow arrives at the federal courthouse in Flagstaff, Ariz., on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022.

Jake Bacon / AP


Barlow has lived in Colorado City a lot of her life and has a 2-year-old with particular wants, McVickers mentioned in arguing for her to be launched from custody. Barlow was educated at house via the seventh grade, and has no impartial supply of revenue and no legal historical past, McVickers mentioned.

“It’s an adjustment for her to learn whose rules to follow,” McVickers mentioned.

Prosecutor Wayne Venhuizen famous Bistline and Barlow had been speaking with Bateman in regards to the kids.

“These women have proven that they will stop at nothing to interfere with a federal investigation and protect Bateman, who was sexually abusing children,” he mentioned.

Ultimately, the federal choose overseeing the case ordered Barlow and Bistline, whose transient listening to targeted on setting additional court docket dates, to stay in custody.

Barlow, Bistline and Johnson face life in jail if convicted of the fees. Johnson doesn’t but have an lawyer publicly listed in Arizona.

FBI spokesperson Kevin Smith declined Tuesday to debate the trajectory of the case towards the women and Bateman. Court information allege Bateman, 46, engaged in little one intercourse trafficking and polygamy, however none of his present prices relate to these allegations. Bateman’s lawyer within the federal case, Adam Zickerman, didn’t reply to requests for remark.

Criminal protection lawyer Michael Piccarreta, who represented Warren Jeffs on Arizona prices that had been dismissed and isn’t concerned within the present instances, mentioned Arizona has a historical past of making an attempt to take a stand towards polygamy by charging comparatively minor offenses to build greater instances.

“Whether this is the same tactic that has been used in the past or whether there’s more to the story, only time will tell,” he mentioned.

Polygamy is a felony in Arizona however in Utah it is just a misdemeanor, after a change in 2020 ended jail time for polygamy between consenting adults. Lawmakers voted overwhelmingly for the proposal, which supporters mentioned will enable the 30,000 or so folks residing within the state’s polygamous communities to come back out of the shadows and report abuses similar to underage marriage by different polygamists with out concern of prosecution.

Arizona Department of Child Services spokesperson Darren DaRonco declined to touch upon the standing of the 9 kids in state custody.

Alice Barlow has two teenage daughters in state custody, one of whom ran away from the group house. She says she hasn’t been allowed to see or talk with them these days.

Three women embrace earlier than they are faraway from the house of Samuel Bateman, following his arrest in Colorado City, Ariz., on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022. Seven had been faraway from the Bateman house, in addition to two others from one other home as half of the investigation. 

Trent Nelson/The Salt Lake Tribune by way of AP


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