What you need to know about FLDS leader Samuel Bateman's arrest in Arizona

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A leader of a sect of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was taken into custody after the FBI searched his home in Colorado City near the Arizona-Utah state line.

Here's what we know, based on court records and courtroom action.

What happened?

On Aug. 28, Arizona Department of Public Safety troopers saw a GMC Denali pulled over on Interstate 40. They noticed a child's hand poking out of a trailer in tow and then arrested Samuel Rappylee Bateman. He was booked into a Coconino County jail on suspicion of child endangerment, but he returned home.

Why is the FBI involved?

Federal agents grew suspicious that Bateman was deleting records off a cellphone app during his arrest and communicating with supporters in Colorado City while he was in jail. On Sept. 13, agents searched his home there. On Sept. 15, he appeared in federal court on new federal charges dealing with interfering with destruction of records.

Who is Samuel Bateman?

He is 46, and a leader of an FLDS sect in Colorado City. Beyond that, much is still not known about him. He calls himself a prophet, according to Colorado City and Hilldale residents.

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What does FLDS stand for?

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. FLDS members practice polygamy, or plural marriage.

Is the FLDS church part of the LDS church?

No. It is a radical splinter sect in the Mormon faith.

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Does the LDS still condone polygamy? Is it legal in Utah?

The LDS officially ended polygamy more than a century ago. It is not legal in Utah.

What we know about the case

In the federal case, if convicted, Bateman faces a maximum of 60 years in custody for two counts of destruction of records and one count of tampering with an official proceeding. On Sept. 15, Bateman pleaded not guilty to those charges. The judge ordered him to stay in jail.

In Coconino County Superior Court, Bateman was charged with three counts of child abuse. Convictions each carry a possible prison term of between 1 and 3½ years.

What remains unclear

It's still unclear how, why and when the FBI took an interest in Bateman. Nor do we know what the FBI looked for and found in his Colorado City homes.

There is no information on what happened to nine girls who were taken into protective custody there. Almost nothing has been released about any of the girls and what led authorities to intervene for their safety.

The status of the three girls who were in the trailer also is unclear.

Wait, didn't this happen before?

In this Nov. 15, 2010 file photo, Warren Jeffs sits in the Third District Court in Salt Lake City.
In this Nov. 15, 2010 file photo, Warren Jeffs sits in the Third District Court in Salt Lake City.

The twin border cities of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, known collectively to locals as ”Short Creek,” have long had ties to fundamentalist polygamous sects, most notably the splinter sect of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints controlled by Warren Jeffs.

At one point, Jeffs controlled most of land in the two towns where he performed marriages with child brides, which landed him on the FBI's most wanted list. Jeffs was arrested in 2006 while in Nevada.

Whatever happened to Warren Jeffs?

Jeffs is serving a life prison sentence in Texas after being convicted in 2011 of sexually assaulting the young girls he had taken as wives. It is believed he continues to maintain control of some of his followers through communications made from prison.

What's next in Bateman's case?

Bateman has been booked into and held in a Coconino County jail. He's due in federal court next for a pretrial hearing next month. His arraignment in the state case was vacated. He has a hearing next month in that case, too.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: FLDS leader Samuel Bateman's arrest in Arizona: What you need to know