Amber Alert update: Investigation continues as missing girls found
CEDAR CITY—The two young girls who were subjects of an Amber Alert issued Monday afternoon were found safe by Iron County Sheriff’s deputies. Dinah and Hattie Coltharp, ages 8 and 4 respectively, had been missing since Sunday night and an Amber Alert was issued at about 3 p.m. Monday. Along with them, deputies found two other young girls who are the biological daughters of the man suspected of detaining them.
At about 5:15 p.m. Monday, an area resident who had heard the alert called Cedar Communications advising them of “a white male walking alone on the dirt road several miles west of the compound,” according to Lt. Del. Schlosser of the department. The compound he referred to was one reportedly used by their father, John Coltharp, located near Beryl junction, 30 miles west of Cedar City. Deputies responded and found the male to be Samuel Shaffer, who was last seen with the girls on Sunday along with his two biological children—Lily Shaffer, age 7, and Samantha Shaffer, age 5.
Schlosser stated “it is believed Samuel had left the compound on Sunday after 4 p.m. on foot. It was reported that Samuel had spent the previous night with all four girls in a tent on or near the property.” He said SUU aviation was contacted and deployed a helicopter to search the area, and additional helicopters and fixed wing aircraft were later deployed to aid in the search effort.
Once he had been apprehended by deputies, Shaffer provided law enforcement with the general location of two girls, Lily Shaffer and Hattie Coltharp, who were inside two blue plastic 50-gallon water barrels. Shaffer reportedly stated the girls had been placed in the barrels to conceal or hide them from those searching for them.
“It appears the children had spent approximately 24 hours inside the barrels in subfreezing temperatures,” Schlosser said. “These two children were not properly dressed for the cold temperatures and did not have food or water at that time. Shaffer also made statements he had left a firearm behind on the ground next to the barrels.”
The two other girls remained missing until Shaffer eventually told deputies of their location, inside an abandoned mobile home. Dinah Coltharp and Samantha Shaffer were located “with signs of dehydration and acting lethargic,” Schlosser said.
All four girls were transported to Cedar City Hospital, and Samantha Shaffer was subsequently flown by Life Flight to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. As of this afternoon at 5 p.m., her condition is unknown. The other three girls have been released from the hospital.
In an ICSO release, Schlosser said “it is currently believed Johnathan Colthard and Samuel Shaffer are part of the Knights of the Crystal Blade. It was believed Samuel Shaffer was the Prophet of the Knights of the Crystal Blade. During and interview, Shaffer stated he had turned over the position of Prophet to Johnathan Coltharp.”
An FBI forensic team is helping with the ongoing investigation at three different locations. Shaffer was arrested and booked on two counts of kidnapping and four counts of child abuse, all felony charges. Johnathan Coltharp is currently in the custody at the Sanpete County Jail.