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After girls go missing, kidnapping and obstruction charges brought against FLDS splinter group's followers

Posted at 3:14 PM, Dec 05, 2022

SALT LAKE CITY — Federal prosecutors have filed kidnapping and obstruction of justice criminal charges against followers of a man leading a splinter group of the Fundamentalist LDS Church.

It follows the disappearance of eight girls who were in the custody of Arizona child protective services who were found late last week in Spokane, Wash. Federal prosecutors in Arizona filed the charges against Naomi Bistline, Donnae Barlow and Moretta Rose Johnson.

Court records show Johnson was arrested and ordered detained by a federal judge in Washington pending extradition to Arizona. Bistline and Barlow were apparently arrested in Arizona last week and made appearances in federal court on Monday.

According to court documents obtained by FOX 13 News on Monday, the women are believed to be "married" to Samuel Rappylee Bateman, who claims to lead the FLDS Church. Observers in Colorado City, Ariz., the former stronghold of the FLDS Church, characterize Bateman and his followers as a "splinter" group.

FBI agents wrote in a probable cause affidavit that Bateman "is a self-proclaimed Prophet of the FLDS church."

"Bateman has approximately 50 followers and over 20 wives, many of whom are minors, mostly under the age of 15. 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 affidavit states.

In graphic descriptions, the affidavit detailed sexual abuse and "orgies" involving Bateman and a number of people, including some underage children.

Bateman is currently in jail in Arizona, currently charged with obstruction of justice and accused of interfering with an ongoing federal investigation into abuses of children. In September, the FBI raided his Colorado City home and took nine girls into protective custody.

"Additional forensic interviews were scheduled for those five girls; however, it is believed that some of the older girls were influencing the younger girls not to talk about Bateman," the FBI wrote. "Therefore, the girls refused to participate in the forensic interviews, except JD#7, who told the interviewer: 'I can't talk to you.'"

Eight of those girls disappeared from group homes on Nov. 27. The FBI alleges that Bateman made video calls from jail to one of his purported wives, who was with the girls.

"He tells the girls how much he needs them, and how it puts pressure on him when they are scattered and that he needs everyone to be together," the affidavit states.

They were located on Friday in Spokane, where authorities said they had tracked an Airbnb rental to a credit card linked to a Bateman follower.

The FBI wrote that Bateman has claimed Fundamentalist LDS Church leader Warren Jeffs appeared to him in a vision and made him the leader. Jeffs is currently serving a life sentence in a Texas prison for child sexual assault linked to underage "marriages."

FOX 13 News reported in August that Jeffs had begun to reassert his control over the FLDS Church, once considered to be Utah's largest polygamous group. He was calling for members and ex-members to return to the fold.