By Jeff Todd

DENVER (CBS4) – The investigation into kidnapped children with ties to Colorado is just beginning.

The Iron County Sheriff’s Office in Utah says it’s executing three separate search warrants along with help from the FBI.

An Amber Alert was issued Monday for children of John Coltharp who were missing and presumed in danger. Coltharp’s friend and fellow “prophet” in a religious cult the two had started has been arrested. Samuel Shaffer faces two counts of kidnapping and four counts of child abuse.

utah kidnapping 1 Authorities Continue Investigation Into Kidnapping With Colorado Ties

(credit: Sanpete County Sheriff’s Office)

Shaffer is accused of taking his own daughters and Coltharp’s children and separating them to avoid being caught by authorities.

Steve Singular has studied the fundamental Mormon movement and even wrote a book on its most famous leader, Warren Jeffs.

“I think that’s been the fundamental issue for either the FLDS under Warren Jeffs or these other splinter groups you’re seeing here,” Singular said. “They want to practice this in their own way apart from the laws of the United States.”

Singular credits the police response and Amber Alert with potentially saving the girls’ lives.

“This is about criminal behavior and this is about where that line is crossed and goes from religious freedom into criminal behavior,” Singular said.

utah kidnapping Authorities Continue Investigation Into Kidnapping With Colorado Ties

Religious expert Steve Singular speaks with CBS4’s Jeff Todd. (credit: CBS)

Investigators say one Coltharp daughter and one Shaffer daughter were found inside 50-gallon water barrels in subfreezing conditions on a remote property. Another Coltharp daughter and another Shaffer daughter were found in an abandoned trailer.

It’s believed Coltharp was prepared to marry off his daughters into polygamy.

“It is currently believed Johnathan Coltharp and Samuel Shaffer are part of the Knights of the Crystal Blade. It was believed Samuel Shaffer was the Prophet of the Knights of the Crystal Blade. During an interview with Shaffer he stated he had turned over the position of Prophet to Johnathan Coltharp,” said a press release from the Iron County Sheriff’s Office.

The investigation is ongoing.

Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.

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