Shaffer, 34, a self-proclaimed prophet, was given a 25-years-to-life prison term Tuesday for child rape, having been found guilty of one case of first-degree felony rape and one case of child abuse.
Shaffer and his co-defendant, John Coltharp, are members of a doomsday cult called "Knights of the Crystal Blade." Shaffer told police he was "betrothed" to Coltharp's eight-year-old daughter. Police also say Coltharp was married to the alleged prophet's seven-year-old daughter, Fox 13 reports.
According to another report, both men were "married" to two girls each, ages four through eight.
Samuel Shaffer, “prophet” of small #Utah group Knights of the Crystal Blade, guilty of first-degree felony rape of a child & one second-degree felony count of child abuse has just been sentenced to 25yrs to life in prison on first count and 1 to 15 years for second count. pic.twitter.com/hEEPXx5j7A— D.J. Bolerjack (@DJBolerjack) 22 мая 2018 г.
The police started searching for Coltharp's four children, two boys and two girls, after they were the subjects of an AMBER alert last year. When the police received a tip about the children's whereabouts in December, they raided the cult settlement, and found the two girls hiding in empty 50-gallon water barrels and showing signs of having stayed outside for roughly 24 hours without food or water in near-freezing temperatures.
"Had we not received that tip today, these girls probably wouldn't have been alive in the morning," Iron County Sheriff's Lt. Del Schlosser told CBS Denver in December.
Shaffer himself fled the scene, leaving the children behind. Coltharp was taken into custody a while before the raid.
In court, Shaffer spoke of his so-called "wife" in loving terms, even saying he bears her no grudge for her testifying against him.
"I care about her a lot and I care about her mother a lot. I was devastated reading her letter yesterday. If being crucified would make it better I would do it. I'm sorry," he said.
His lawyer insists that the relations between the two were not sexual, but religious.
"I don't want her to blame herself in the future for putting me away. I want her to know that I'm glad she testified against me," Shaffer told the court, according to Journal & Courier. "I want her to know that everything that's happening to me is my fault and it's not her fault. I love her and I respect her. And it's OK that she talked."
He also told the court he agreed to testify against Coltharp but also said he contemplated committing suicide so that he didn't have to do that.
"Because of the seriousness of my charges, I agreed to testify in John Coltharp's case," Shaffer said. "I remember at that time I was worried that, because of my fear of the situation, that I would in some way betray my friend more than he deserved to be betrayed, and whether that fear is legitimate in your eyes or not, I was about to kill myself so that I wouldn't testify against him."
However, the judge rejected Shaffer's supposed religious justification for his actions and did not find Shaffer to be mentally ill. The guilty verdict followed.
"I want to be clear you are not being sentenced based on religious views, you are being sentenced based on criminal conduct which is highly disturbing," Judge Matthew Bell told him.
NEW: A judge has rejected Samuel Shaffer’s request to withdraw his guilty plea. He also appeared in Sanpete County today on separate yet related charges. I’ll have the latest on @KSL5TV at 5 and 6. pic.twitter.com/Z9ux24Z8ls— Sam Penrod (@KSLsampenrod) 21 марта 2018 г.
"Some you abused directly. Some apparently suffered abuse at the hands of others, but with your permission," Bell said. "The victims in this case are quite young… Rather than care for and protect them as you claim was your intent, you groomed, endangered and exploited these victims."
Iron County attorney Gary Edwards told the Journal & Courier that Shaffer had instructed the girls to use different names if they were found by the police. The girls also said Shaffer had encouraged them to use a gun he left behind against the law enforcement officers.
"Mr. Shaffer, in calculated increments, [using] manipulation, deception and salacious grooming of power and control, satisfied his deviant sexual appetites under the guise of a religious fanaticism and doomsday paranoia," Edwards told the Journal & Courier.
Coltharp's ex-wife told reporters her former husband was excommunicated from the Mormon church for his unorthodox beliefs. She said Coltharp was a "doomsday prepper" and, among other things, refused modern medicine and denied her the use of pain medication during the birth of her children, Washington Post reports.
Coltharp's sister told reporters that the family was worried Coltharp might have been preparing to marry his daughters, noting he had said in the past, "girls are meant to get married at the age of 12 — their bodies are ready."
Coltharp was officially charged with first-degree felony kidnapping and obstruction of justice pending sentencing, the Washington Post reports.