IRON COUNTY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – A fundamentalist sect. A man who considered himself a prophet. And an Amber Alert for two missing girls — who were believed to be with that man.
It was all part of the drama Monday, as police were looking for sisters Dinah Coltharp, 8, and Hattie Coltharp, 4, the subject of a an Amber Alert Monday.
The suspect, identified as 34-year-old Samuel Warren Shaffer — a man who allegedly considered himself a profit of a fundamentalist group — is now in custody.
The children had last been seen with the suspect and were suspected to be in Iron County. They were all found in the Lund-area Monday.
On Monday night, ABC4 Utah spoke with the aunt of the missing girls.
Heather Lee is the aunt, who says concern over the girls didn’t start Monday. In fact, she says, there has been real worry for nearly three months about where her nieces and nephews have been.
Lee says her parents and her brother had been living together with the four children.
In September, they all disappeared — went off the grid, Lee says. There was suspicion her brother and her parents were joining a fundamentalist group in Iron County.
“My crazy brother and my crazy parents are the ones that took the kids,” said Lee.
Her brother, John, was arrested in recent days but wouldn’t tell police where the kids were, Lee says.
“He has a crazy friend who thinks he is a prophet,” said Lee.
Her brother’s friend? Samuel Shaffer, who was being sought Monday night by police.
On Monday night, he was found.
The girls were found, too.
Earlier in the day, Lee says the boys were found in a shed — possibly on a compound — with their grandparents (Lee’s parents).
As for the girls? They are safe, and alive.
“They are just filthy and their hair is all matted and they’ve had to wear diapers at night because they’ve been living in the middle of the desert outside. They’re sunburned,” said Lee.
“My heart is aching because I know that this is going to do permanent damage — to all four of them. To the kids,” added Lee.