According to the FBI, one self-proclaimed “prophet” had more than 20 wives, including many underage wives.
Samuel Lapiri Bateman allegedly told his wife it was “the will of the Father” that they had sex with him and punished followers who did not see him as a prophet.
The 46-year-old was a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) until he left to start his own small offshoot near the Arizona-Utah border.
According to the FBI, he was financially supported by male followers who also gave up their wives and children to become Bateman’s wife.
The bureau’s affidavit was filed a day after authorities tracked the eight girls to an Airbnb in Washington state where they had been in Bateman’s care but were in state custody in Arizona. The girls escaped from a group home in Arizona, the affidavit said.
Newly released court documents offer fresh insight into what investigators found in the case, which was first made public in August.
It comes with charges against three of Bateman’s wives — Naomi Bisterling, Donna Barlow and Moretta Rose Johnson — accused of kidnapping and obstructing a foreseeable prosecution.
Bistline and Barlow are scheduled to appear in Flagstaff, Arizona, while Johnson awaits extradition from Washington state.
The women are accused of fleeing with Bateman’s eight children, who were housed in Arizona National Custody earlier this year.
The minors were found hundreds of miles away in Spokane, Washington last week.
Bateman was arrested in August when his pinky finger was found poking out of a crack in the trailer he was driving through Flagstaff.
He was re-arrested on bail and charged with obstruction of justice in a federal investigation into whether children were transported across state lines for sexual activity.
Court records say Bateman engaged in child sex trafficking and polygamy, but none of his current charges are related to those allegations.
The latest charges do not include sex crimes.
Polygamy is illegal in Arizona, but in Utah 2020.
FBI affidavits filed in the women’s case have largely focused on Bateman, who claimed to be a prophet in 2019.
Bateman said former FLDS leader Warren Jeffs told him to invoke “the Spirit of God on these people.”
The affidavit detailed sexually explicit conduct by Bateman and his followers in the discharge of “a pious duty.”
Jeffs is serving a life sentence in a Texas prison for child sex abuse in connection with an underage marriage.
Bateman lives in Colorado City, Arizona, among devout members of the polygamous FLDS, former church members, and those who don’t follow those beliefs.
Polygamy is a legacy of the early teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the mainstream Mormon Church abandoned the practice in 1890, and polygamy is now strictly prohibited.
When Bateman was arrested earlier this year, he instructed his followers to obtain passports and delete messages sent through Signal, an encrypted messaging system, authorities said.
He demanded that his followers publicly confess to any indiscretions and share those confessions widely, according to the FBI affidavit.
Bateman claimed the punishments came from God and ranged from “suspension” to public humiliation and sex, the affidavit said.
Three children found in the trailer that Bateman was dragging through Flagstaff told authorities they did not have any health or medical needs, according to a police report. Flagstaff has makeshift toilets, couches, camp chairs, and no ventilation.
None of the girls in state custody in Arizona disclosed Bateman’s sexual abuse of her during forensic interviews, though some said she was present during the sexual activity.