Colorado City, Ariz. • Early Tuesday in Colorado City, brokers surrounded a house with their weapons drawn as one yelled via a megaphone, “This is the FBI!”
“We have a search warrant for this property and all vehicles,” his voice echoed throughout the small community. “Please come out with your hands up.”
Over the following two days, federal brokers would arrest Samuel Bateman, the chief of a small new offshoot of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), seek his houses and compound and two times take away teams of kids.
According to a replica of the hunt warrant, which was once shared with The Salt Lake Tribune, brokers had been in the hunt for proof of any marriages or sexual relationships between adults and kids.
Bateman was once charged remaining month with kid abuse after government found out 3 younger women inside of a locked shipment trailer he was once pulling close to Flagstaff on Aug. 28. In a three-count Arizona indictment unsealed Wednesday, he was once charged with destroying proof at the identical day he was once pulled over.
Federal prosecutors allege Bateman destroyed digital communications at the messaging app Signal “with the intent to impair its integrity and availability for use in a foreseeable criminal proceeding.”
He is predicted to be arraigned Thursday in federal court docket in Flagstaff.
During the searches Tuesday, officers took 9 women from two Colorado City houses utilized by Bateman to St. George for a number of hours, and returned them later within the day.
But on Wednesday afternoon, Arizona kid welfare officers got here and took the similar women. They have no longer been returned as of Wednesday night time.
The women huddled in combination and cried whilst making a song a FLDS track, “Saint of the Living God” — considered one of Bateman’s favorites, his members of the family informed The Salt Lake Tribune. They had been then separated into automobiles, as girls gave them scriptures and spiritual books. When officers recommended the ladies additionally take circle of relatives pictures alongside, the ladies answered that the FBI had taken they all.
An reputable with the Arizona Department of Child Safety declined to remark Wednesday, bringing up confidentiality rules.
The dual cities of Colorado City in Arizona and Hildale in Utah are the normal house base of the polygamous FLDS religion, which is thought of as cut loose Bateman’s fans by way of participants of each teams. Some of Bateman’s fans informed The Tribune in addition they follow polygamy.
Members of the circle of relatives confirmed unwavering improve for Bateman on Wednesday as he remained in prison. They shared notes with The Tribune describing him.
“Samuel is very passionate about meeting his religious and financial goals to help the world,” one girl wrote in a looped cursive.
“Samuel is the most precious and dear thing in my life,” any other wrote. A 3rd wrote: “Samuel is every good quality that I want to be.”
How the investigation started
Bateman was once stopped by way of police close to Flagstaff on Aug. 28 round midday after any person referred to as police to document a suspicious automobile pulling a field trailer stuffed with other folks, together with youngsters.
An Arizona public protection reputable quickly noticed the grey GMC Denali and started to apply it, noticing youngsters’s small hands transferring within the hole of the trailer door, in step with court docket data.
Bateman pulled into a carpark, in step with the data, and approached law enforcement officials. According to the police, there have been 4 women within the truck with Bateman — two over the age of 18; two underneath the age of 15. And there have been 3 women between the ages of eleven and 14 within the trailer. None of the kids shared Bateman’s remaining identify.
According to police, the trailer contained a makeshift bathroom constructed from a plastic bucket, a trash bag and a bathroom seat; a sofa; tenting chairs and “a variety of other items.” The temperature within the trailer, which had no air vents, was once “hotter than outside,” the place it was once 81 levels. And, police mentioned, the 2 grownup women and the 5 women mentioned they had been headed for Phoenix or Tucson, the place the temperature was once within the triple digits.
Bateman was once charged days later with 3 counts of kid abuse, in step with court docket data. He has pleaded no longer in charge to the costs.
Federal prosecutors now allege that someday that very same day, Bateman and others deleted messages on Signal in an alleged try to hinder a prosecution.
(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) FBI brokers with a rebellion protect and rifles raid a house the place fans of Samuel Bateman are living, in Colorado City, Ariz., on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022.
The reproduction of the hunt warrant displays brokers had been additionally taking a look Tuesday for any proof of data being shredded or virtual paperwork being destroyed.
The warrant sought computer systems, “lingerie style underwear that could be worn by minors,” and any proof that resources of source of revenue had been used to facilitate trip for underage marriage or sexual relationships.
It additionally sought any “correspondence about Bateman’s adult followers marrying, having sexual relationships with, or similar” associations with minors.
The FBI arrives
At a small inexperienced house with the phrase “Zion” written in gold on a plaque above the door, girls and kids in the end answered to the FBI’s announcement and got here out Tuesday morning.
Agents repeated the announcement at a blue 16-bedroom house within reach, the place others got here outdoor.
(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Followers of Samuel Bateman, after his arrest in Colorado City, Ariz., on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022.
Bateman was once arrested, in step with his circle of relatives, at a warehouse a couple of blocks away at the compound the place girls labored call-center sort jobs and Bateman frolicked.
A receipt for assets displays federal government seized computer systems, a difficult pressure, Bateman’s start certificates, and handwritten notes and journals from the warehouse. They additionally took two grownup toys and several other cell phones, in step with the file.
Women who are living within the two houses the FBI was once looking accrued and waited on the within reach house of a girl who offers shelter to other folks attached to fundamentalist teams.
When Bateman referred to as from the Coconino County prison on Tuesday afternoon, a bunch who have been ready at that house accrued in a good circle to listen to his voice over the telephone and to turn their improve.
The small crowd gave the impression to come with older youngsters and younger grownup girls, a number of with young children resting on their hips.
“I’m grateful for you!” one mentioned as a child in her hands sucked on a pacifier.
(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Family and fans of Samuel Bateman collect round as he calls from custody after his arrest in Colorado City, Ariz., on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022.
Bateman informed the gang that he was once feeling smartly, and mentioned he favored the “kindness and professionalism” of the brokers who arrested him.
“We’re not doing anything wrong,” he informed them. “So it must just be a simple misunderstanding. So I should be out by tomorrow, hopefully. Or today.”
“Be so prayerful, would you?” he added.
‘The Samuel Bateman Group’
Colorado City and Hildale in southern Utah are recognized jointly as “Short Creek.” The neighborhood was once settled by way of participants of the FLDS religion within the early 1900s, as a spot to break out and follow their ideals freely.
The staff splintered from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when leaders there agreed to prohibit polygamy to assuage the United States executive.
FLDS believers noticed polygamy as a founding and necessary theory in their religion, decreed by way of church founder Joseph Smith. And they didn’t wish to abandon it.
In 2002, Warren Jeffs turned into the brand new prophet over the FLDS neighborhood. He stays the polygamous sect’s reputable chief, giving edicts from in the back of bars as he serves a jail sentence in Texas for sexually abusing two women.
Bateman’s fans informed The Tribune that they imagine themselves cut loose Jeffs’ model of the FLDS church — despite the fact that a photograph of Jeffs hangs in a bed room within the inexperienced area that was once raided by way of federal officers. FLDS participants additionally imagine the Bateman staff cut loose them.
They have referred to as themselves Fundamental FLDS, and feature additionally been referred to by way of others because the “Samuel Bateman group” and “Samuelites.” They imagine Bateman their chief, and consult with him as “father.”
In the warehouse that was once raided Tuesday, there was once a Post-it observe left in the back of.
“Samuel Rappylee Bateman,” any person wrote in black Sharpie. “I am here to do your will.”
Under a row of hand drawn hearts, they wrote in capital letters: “I LOVE YOU FOREVER.”
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