A pair of young sisters from Utah has been rescued after their father allegedly gave them to a religious sect leader for marriage.
Four-year-old Hatti and Dhina, 8, were found in a building’s storage receptacle on Monday night in Lund, Utah, CBS4 reports. They were reportedly in the freezing building all by themselves. The Iron County Sheriff’s Department said that if they weren’t rescued, the two girls may not have survived the night.
“They were shaken, but as they got warmer, they became much more calm and talkative,” said Lt. Del Schlosser, adding that the girls were cold and hungry.
Samuel Warren Shaffer, 34, (pictured above) has been arrested in connection with the alleged abuse, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. Police say he believes he is a prophet for a new Mormon religious group called “Knights of the Crystal Blade.” Police believe the girls’ father, John Coltharp, gave his two daughters to Shaffer so that Shaffer could marry them. He was already in custody at the time of Shaffer’s arrest. Coltharp had allegedly said in the past that “girls are meant to get married at the age of 12 — their bodies are ready.”
The girls and their brothers went missing in September. The boys, William, 7; Seth, 6, were rescued during a raid of a polygamist compound on Monday, leading to the arrest of Coltharp.
After the boy were rescued, but before the girls were found, the children’s mother spoke to CBS4, stating, “I’m so unbelievably happy to talk to my boys and they are okay and so sorry for my girls and it’s so sad they are suffering and they don’t have each other or their parents.”
It is unclear if the defendants have lawyers who can speak on their behalf. But, Shaffer’s brother, Benjamin Shaffer, has claimed that his sibling is no threat. He said he was likely just doing the children's father a "favor," according to the Salt Lake City Tribune.
Police credit the Amber Alert system for helping them find the children.
[Photo: Iron County Sheriff's Office]