Sam Bateman, polygamous cult leader accused of kidnapping his child brides from state care, appears in court on new charges

  • A cult leader accused of taking child brides pleaded not guilty to kidnapping.

  • Sam Bateman was arrested in August after girls were found locked up in a trailer he was towing.

  • Bateman, of the FLDS, was arraigned on new charges related to the kidnapping of those girls from state care.

Samuel Bateman, the 46-year-old leader of a polygamous splinter sect linked to cult leader Warren Jeffs, was in court this week where he faced new criminal charges alleging he masterminded kidnapping nearly a dozen girls from state children's group homes.

Bateman, a self-styled prophet in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, was first arrested on state charges in August after three young girls were found hidden in a cargo trailer that law enforcement said he was towing on a highway in Flagstaff, Arizona — over 1,000 miles from the FLDS stronghold in Colorado City.

Local officials then raided Arizona residences used by Bateman — who has 20 wives, most of them children — and nine girls were placed in Arizona Department of Child Safety group homes, according to the FBI.

On Wednesday, Bateman pleaded not guilty to new charges in federal court in Phoenix, Arizona after the FBI alleged that he arranged for three of his adult wives to kidnap 8 of those minor girls from the children's group home where they were being cared for.

"On November 27, 2022, eight of the nine minor females ran away from DCS group homes," Dawn Martin, an FBI special agent, wrote in an affidavit filed in federal courts in Washington and Arizona.

The FBI says that Bateman conspired with three women — Moretta Johnson, Naomi Bistline, and Donnae Barlow — to assist the girls in escaping state care. They are charged with tampering with and destroying evidence and aiding in kidnapping the girls.

The women picked the girls up and then transported them to Spokane, Washington by car, where they were found on December 1 in an AirBnb, according to federal court documents.

Polygamy and sexual abuse

The FLDS has long been run by Warren Jeffs, a notorious cult leader who has run the group from prison since 2006.

Bateman, who for years had tried to work his way into Jeff's inner circle, recently declared himself prophet, one of Warren Jeffs' sons previously told Insider.

While most members of the FLDS still consider Jeffs prophet, the FBI says Bateman now has a small group of 50 followers.

While Bateman has not been charged with federal sex trafficking charges, an affidavit filed in the case details allegations of sexual abuse of minor girls in the sect.

When the girls were placed into state care in September, federal investigators began reviewing some of their journals, which were seized from Bateman's homes.

The journal entries detailed kissing, sleeping with, and touching the 46-year-old Bateman. In interviews with the FBI, informants detailed some of Bateman's alleged treatment of his underage wives, including a wine-fueled orgy in which they were made to watch him have sex with their father before they were forced to have sex with other men.

One informant told investigators that Bateman complained to some of his wives that another one of his child brides — no older than 10 — was wetting the bed. Bateman also told his own underage daughter he was meant to marry and impregnate her, and on several occasions kissed her inappropriately in front of other followers, according to the FBI report.

In initial forensic interviews, though, the girls didn't report sexual abuse, and Martin said she believes that the older girls were keeping the younger ones from talking.

It wasn't until a day before Thanksgiving that one of the nine girls in state care said that Bateman had sexually abused her, according to the FBI affidavit.

Days later, eight of the girls took off, prompting investigators to once again turn to electronic devices and journals they left behind for answers.

They learned the girls had been communicating with Bateman's older wives through a encrypted group chat on Signal.

In a journal entry on November 27, one girl wrote, "today is the day we go home," according to the affidavit.

A trial was scheduled for Bateman on Jan. 10, but his lawyers have requested more time to prepare.

Attorney Andrew Marcantel, who represents Bateman, told Insider he expects the trial to be postponed.

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