A Utah judge on Wednesday sentenced a self-proclaimed Old Testament prophet and cult leader to 26 years to life in prison for child bigamy and sodomy, KSTU-TV reported.
John Alvin Coltharp said he had followed "heavenly laws" when he admitted to taking a 7-year-old child bride last year. Coltharp married the daughter of fellow cult member Samuel Shaffer. On Wednesday, Mantis 6th District Court Judge Marvin Bagley issued Coltharp the maximum sentence allowed. He will serve at least 26 years.
Coltharp, the 34-year-old leader of a doomsday cult called Brotherhood of the Crystal Blade, pleaded guilty to charges earlier this year as part of a plea deal to dismiss charges of kidnapping and obstruction of justice.
What's the story?
Coltharp, Shaffer, and their children disappeared in September. They later admitted to taking each other's daughters as their child brides, according to the Deseret News.
In December, an Amber Alert helped authorities find the four daughters of the two men.
The girls ranged in age from 4 to 8 were found in a remote area in Iron County during freezing temperatures. Two of the children were discovered hiding in plastic barrels and the other two were found in an abandoned mobile home, the Washington Post reported.
What happened in court?
Coltharp said he believes he's the reincarnation of the biblical prophets Jacob, Elijah, and John, according to KSTU.
He blamed the government for the trauma caused to the children.
"I am here before the second coming to set an example with regard to marriage and to teach the keys of the Gospel and warn the people especially in the state to repent," he said in a speech to the court, KSTU reported.
At one point, Coltharp, who believes the world will soon end, claimed the Lord was directing his words.
"My marriage was the right thing to do," he told the court. "And, I haven't heard anyone try to refute the argument that I've made that it was practiced in the past."
Coltharp alleged that feminism has caused a war against straight white men.
"If I'm a sex offender for what I've done, and when I go to the other side, I'll be in company with those other sex offenders I've read about in the scriptures," he added.
What did the judge say?
Bagley told the defendant that his beliefs are wrong.
“I don’t know of any religion that condones sexual relations between an adult male and 7-year-old girls,” the judge said, according to KTVX-TV.
What did the prosecutor say?
Sanpete County attorney Kevin Daniels told the judge that he wished he could have sought the death penalty in the case.
"If he wants to be a martyr, I’m more than happy to fill the role of the individual who drops the sword on his head," Daniels told KTVX outside the court.
What about the children?
Steve Soble, who is the grandfather to some of the children, said they are doing better and getting ready to start school soon.
"There’s struggles. It’s not easy, but they’re making it. We’re going to make sure they have the love and support they need," Soble said, according to KTVX.
The grandfather said he hopes the pedophile receives "prison justice" for what he's done.
"It’s nice to know that most likely he will be spending the rest of his life in prison and we hope it is very, very uncomfortable for him," Soble told the news outlet after the hearing.
What happened to Shaffer?
Shaffer was sentenced to 15 years to life after pleading guilty to felony sodomy in June, according to CBS News. He had been previously sentenced for first-degree rape of a child and second-degree child abuse. Schaffer will serve a minimum of 26 years.
Robert Roe, 35, who allegedly took a 5-year-old-girl as his wife and is connected to the sect, was charged with first-degree felony sodomy on a child. He is set to appear in court on Oct. 19, according to KTVX.