A leader of a small polygamous group on the Arizona-Utah border took at least 20 wives, most of them minors.
He was a self-proclaimed prophet of his religious group. Newly filed federal court documents show that he punished followers who did not treat him as a prophet
The FBI affidavit filed in the women’s case centers on Samuel Bateman, who proclaimed himself a prophet in 2019. He has pleaded not guilty to state child abuse charges and federal charges of tampering with evidence.
Bateman was a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints until he left in recent years and started his own small offshoot group, said investigator Sam Brower.
Federal officials contend Bateman engaged in horrific acts with children and demanded that his followers confess publicly for any indiscretions. He claimed the punishments came from the Lord.
Bateman was arrested in August after someone spotted small fingers in the gap of a trailer he was hauling through Flagstaff. He was arrested again in September and charged with obstructing justice.
Authorities removed nine children from Bateman’s home in Colorado City and placed them in foster care. Eight of the children later escaped from foster care and were found in Spokane, Washington. Washington state authorities tracked them down to a vehicle driven by one of Bateman’s wives, who has been accused of kidnapping.
Naomi Bistline and Donnae Barlow were found by authorities to be communicating with Bateman about the children. The women had proven that they would stop at nothing to interfere with a federal investigation and protect Bateman, who was sexually abusing children.
A criminal defense attorney who represented Warren Jeffs, a perverted FLDS leader known for acquiring child brides, also shared his thoughts on the case. He claimed that Arizona has a history of charging minor offenses to build bigger cases.