Arizona Polygamist Cult Leader Allegedly Kept Child Brides, Wanted To Marry Daughter

An alleged Arizona polygamist cult leader is accused of having as many as 20 wives, several of whom were minors, according to the FBI.

Samuel Rappylee Bateman, 46, is accused of child endangerment. Authorities say that, among other allegations, he tried to take his underage daughter as one of his many wives. (Her mother objected, left the cult and sought a restraining order.) One girl was allegedly married to Bateman when she was only nine years-old, per recently filed federal court documents.

Bateman is the leader of a sect of the controversial Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which has been labeled a cult by prosecutors and authorities.

In a 22-page complaint filed by the FBI on Friday, a special agent described Bateman as a self-proclaimed prophet with “approximately 50 followers and over 20 wives, many of whom are minors, mostly under the age of 15,” according to a Fox News report.

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Handouts of Melissa Hightower from NCMEC

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"Bateman allegedly has ‘impressions of Heavenly Father's will’ to encourage his followers, including the minor children, to engage in sexual acts and relies on that submission to do his own will," the court documents stated.

According to the FBI, Bateman even allegedly tried marrying his own daughter. On a ride home from a trip to Canada, Bateman allegedly told his teenage daughter he’d give her $50, two bags of Doritos and airplane tickets to marry him, adding that “if his feelings were right, he would make her have a child,” the Spokesman Review reported.

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The affidavit — which revolves around witness statements from a couple that was filming a documentary on Bateman and his church — stated that, in November or December 2020, Bateman drove to the filmmakers’ home with a vehicle loaded with women and young girls. He allegedly told the documentarians the women and girls were all his wives. The pair told authorities that Bateman had openly boasted to them that the youngest of the girls was just nine years old and had been born in 2011.

Between May 2020 and November 2021, federal prosecutors say Bateman and several church associates transported underage girls back and forth through Arizona, Utah and Nevada for the purposes of criminal sexual activity. 

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Bateman is also accused of orchestrating church video calls in which he and other followers were nude and participated in orgies. Authorities say the suspect routinely had sexual intercourse with male members’ wives, which the FBI says Bateman referred to as the “Binding of Brothers.” Prosecutors say the polygamist cult leaders’ male followers and underage girls would watch the lurid sex acts at his command.

In at least one instance, according to audio and video recordings cited in the complaint, one of the girls was allegedly forced to participate in a church group sex act with other members when she was only 12 years old. Recordings captured Bateman allegedly saying the “Heavenly Father” had spoken to him and directly told him to “give the most precious thing he has, his girls’ virtue,” in coordinating the illicit encounter.

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“God will fix their bodies and put the membrane back in their body,” Bateman allegedly said, per court documents.

“I've never had more confidence in doing his will. It's all out of love,'" the documents say he said. "The girls ended with ‘It's a privilege to hurt for someone else so they can rise.'"

The FBI’s affidavit also details other instances of allege abuse, including times at which Bateman allegedly transported his young wives in a trailer, during which the victims were forced to use a bucket and a plastic bag as toilets. Meanwhile, prosecutors say Bateman possessed two Bentleys, which he used for his own transportation.

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On Thursday, Bateman follower Morette Rose Johnson was arrested on obstruction and kidnapping charges in Spokane, Washington, after eight children who had previously been removed from church members’ custody were found at Airbnb that had been rented out by the religious sect, according to the Spokesman Review. Johnson is one of Bateman’s wives and was also allegedly married to him while underage, but has since turned 18, according to the newspaper. The girls had run away from the state's care.

Two other women, supposedly also Bateman's wives who allegedly assisted in trafficking the girls across state lines, weren’t arrested.

Bateman is also facing obstruction charges for allegedly attempting to destroy church records which detailed his suspected cult's illicit behavior, prosecutors said.

Convicted pedophile Warrens Jeff is the former president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.