Prophet of Utah doomsday cult pleads guilty to child bigamy

SALT LAKE CITY — A self-styled prophet who helped lead a Utah doomsday cult that believed in polygamy pleaded guilty to sodomy and child bigamy charges in a central Utah courtroom Wednesday.

John Coltharp, 34, agreed to the plea deal in Manti, Utah, in exchange for prosecutors dropping kidnapping and obstruction of justice charges.

"I am guilty. That is a fact," he said, according to KUTV-TV .

A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 8. He faces up to life in prison.

Coltharp and his friend Samuel W. Shaffer, 34, formed a group called the Knights of the Crystal Blade based on arcane Mormon ideas long abandoned by the mainstream church.

Each man believed himself to be married to two young girls ages 4 through 8, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors say both men held the title of prophet at different points.

Sheriff's deputies investigating the group in December discovered the four girls in barrels and an abandoned trailer on a makeshift compound of shipping containers in the southern Utah desert about 275 miles (440 kilometers) south of Salt Lake City.

A mother of two of the girls had reported them missing along with two of her sons. The men brought the children there months before in preparation for an apocalypse or in hopes of gaining followers, authorities said.

Shaffer pleaded guilty this year and was sentenced in May to up to life in prison.

A third man who joined the group after meeting its founders on Facebook, Robert Shane Roe, 34, was charged with child sexual abuse last week.

Two other followers are cooperating with investigators, but could face charges for obstruction of justice in the future.

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