Mormon cult leader Samuel Bateman has pleaded not guilty (2023)

A polygamous leader accused of having more than 20 wives, including underage girls, has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping and tampering with evidence stemming from a federal investigation into his Utah-Arizona border community.

The case of Samuel Rappylee Bateman is the latest example of law enforcement cracking down on abuse in the Twin Cities.ColoradoCity, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, longtime strongholds of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known by the acronym FLDS.

The FLDS is an offshoot of the LDS Church, which believes in polygamy which has been legalizedUtahin 2020, but it is banned in the mainstream Mormon religion.

end of augustBateman was arrested in Flagstaff,Arizona, after beingcaught towing three of his underage "wives" in a trailerduring a traffic check.

Bateman pleaded not guilty during a hearing in federal court in Phoenix, court documents show. A trial was set for Jan. 10, but his lawyers asked for more time to prepare.

Mormon sect leader Samuel Rappylee Bateman and some of his 23 wives are seen earlier this year posing with journalist Mike Watkiss, whose reporting played a major role in the ousting of FLDS leader Warren Jeffs.

Mormon cult leader Samuel Rappylee Bateman can be heard preaching about "blood atonement" in chilling audio from

The community was once dominated by the polygamous group, but it has been transformed since its leader, Warren Jeffs, was sentenced to life in prison for child molestation in connection with underage marriages more than a decade ago.

Bateman, 46, is a former Jeffs follower who left the FLDS church with a few dozen followers after becoming Jeffs' prophet and successor. Jeffs Bateman came forward while in prison, said Sam Brower, an investigator who has followed the group for years.

Bateman faces a range of state and federal charges, including child molestation, obstructing a federal investigation and - along with several female supporters - aiding and abetting the kidnapping of girls from the state foster home they were placed in after their early arrest. this year.

While federal charges so far have been limited to tampering with and destroying evidence and aiding and abetting the abduction of young girls, court documents in the cases of Bateman and his supporters describe a thorough investigation that uncovers allegations that Bateman staged sexual activity involving a minor and he has been giving it to male follower wives - who claim to do so by order of "Heavenly Father".

They said he used public shaming and sex to punish followers - and at one point tried to take his only daughter's wife, who later went with her mother when Bateman started taking more wives.

Polygamy is a legacy of the early teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the faith widely known as the Mormon Church abandoned the practice in the 1890s and now strictly forbids it.

Bateman was caught on tape talking about killing one of his followers in a religious rite just weeks before doing so.arrested while transporting three of his underage "wives" in a trailer.

The chilling audio, sourced exclusively from, offers a glimpse into Bateman's bizarre beliefs that led to his being expelled from the FLDS in 2019.

The FLDS is an offshoot of the LDS Church, which believes in polygamy which has been legalizedUtahin 2020, but it is banned in the mainstream Mormon religion.

In the 30-second clip, Bateman can be heard talking about "demanding payment every time you do something wrong" and bragging that his male followers are "begging" for his blood to be shed so that eternal life is bestowed. .

(Video) Polygamous leader pleads not guilty to charges

He continued: “People get scared because they hear, oh blood atonement – ​​you kill someone and bury them in your backyard.


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"No, that's not all. It's an open question. But I promise there will be men who will ask for their blood to be shed because they feel there is eternal judgment.

“They can only feel this feeling when they shed their blood and die, and the Lord will give them eternal life.

"Every time you do something wrong, there's a payoff, there's a payoff required."

Bateman declared himself a prophet in 2019 when he left the FLDS to start his own cult near the Arizona-Utah border, where he was financially supported by male followers who gave up their own wives and daughters to become his wives.

The polygamous leader had a harem of more than 20 women, which is first seen with Bateman in a photo taken late last year and shared exclusively with

Bateman smiles proudly with his wives, some of whom are cradling babies, during a meeting with villagers.Arizona-Journalist Mike Watkissin a park in December 2021.

The meeting came after Bateman requested a meeting with Watkiss - whose reporting helped bring down former FLDS leader and convicted child rapist Warren Jeffs in 2006 - and said he was ordered to meet to arrange for the journalist.

Bateman is currently being held at an FBI detention center in Florence, Arizona, after being arrested a second time in September on charges of tampering with evidence. He was originally arrested in August.

Until his second arrest, the self-proclaimed prophet lived the high life in Colorado City, Arizona - a small town of 5,000 known along with Hildale, Utah as Short Creek and is the former headquarters of the FLDS.

In Short Creek, FLDS leader Warren Jeffs built himself a 44-room mansion with the words "Pray and Obey" in it, where he lived with his 78 wives until Utah authorities issued a rape warrant in 2006.

Bateman lived in the Mormon community of Short Creek, where he and his 23 wives lived in two houses - known as "Casa Azul" and "Casa Verde" (pictured).

The cult leader lived in the greenhouse next to a white trailer that was converted into a sewing room for his wives.

The blue house was home to Bateman's followers. Wives who were "corrected" were sent to the blue house to join Johnson and the Bistline brothers.


Short Creek includes Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah and is the former headquarters of the FLDS

Bateman is a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) and was once a dedicated supporter of leader Warren Jeffs, 67, who is serving a life sentence for sexually abusing two underage girls.

According to an FBI statement, Bateman and his 23 wives lived in two houses - known as the "blue house" and the "green house".

The green house, featured in exclusive photos from, was his primary residence and sits next to a white trailer that has been converted into a sewing room for his wives.

Meanwhile, the blue house was home to Bateman's followers - named in the statement as Torrance Bistline, 34, LaDell Bistline Jr, 47, and Moroni Johnson, 51.

Wives who were "corrected" were sent to the blue house to join Johnson and the Bistline brothers.

The property is next to two damaged caravans - occupied by two other Bistline brothers, Truxton and Sky, who are the children of Maria Bistline, one of Bateman's wives.

Although Bateman doesn't have a job, he owns two Bentleys - and has often been seen driving around Colorado town in a convoy with his wives in the vehicles.

An exclusive photo shows the two luxurious Flying Spurs - which cost over $200,000 new - on their way to a friend's house, with Bateman's hand seen waving from the front seat of the lead car.

Bateman's luxurious lifestyle has now been traded for prison after he was arrested in Flagstaff, Arizona in late August on child abuse charges.

Despite being released from the Coconino County Detention Center despite his bail being set at $1.5 million, he was arrested again by the FBI in early September and remains incarcerated.

He was charged by the FBI with tampering with evidence for making multiple phone calls to his wives while being held in Coconino County.

Although Bateman doesn't have a job, he owns two Bentleys - and has often been seen driving around Colorado town in a convoy with his wives in the vehicles.

An exclusive photo from shows Bateman waving from the front seat of one of the Bentley Flying Spurs - which cost over $200,000 new

FBI agents raid the home of Samuel Rappylee Bateman in Colorado City, Arizona on September 13

Samuel Bateman's family and supporters gather as he calls from police custody following his September 13 arrest in Colorado City.

In it, Bateman asked her to delete an encrypted chat on the Signal messaging app - destroying potentially incriminating evidence.

During the raid, agents removed their nine teenage wives from the blue and green houses and transported them to group homes in Phoenix.

(Video) Leader of FLDS splinter group pleads not guilty

Three of his older wives now face federal kidnapping charges after helping eight of the nine escape their homes and allegedly transporting them to Spokane, Washington.

According to an affidavit filed Dec. 2 in Spokane, the eight girls were found hiding in an Airbnb along with 19-year-old Moretta Johnson, who is now being held at the Spokane County Jail.

The rent was paid by Torrance, cousin of Naomi Bistline - a wife of Bateman who was also accused.

Another woman, Donnae Barlow, was also involved and appeared in court in Flagstaff last week to face the charges.

The statement also revealed more details of Bateman's activities, including a perverted attempt to marry his own teenage daughter and his insistence on marrying a girl who was just nine years old when they married.

According to FBI documents, Bateman insisted that she share his bed, but became angry when the terrified child urinated in her sleep.

The 46-year-old remains in custody after being arrested twice earlier this year. He was first arrested in August after he was caught towing his underage "wives" in a trailer in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Some of Bateman's wives appear in police camera footage of his arrest in August, when authorities found them with underage girls he counted among his wives.

Photographic evidence shows the trailer Bateman allegedly used to transport underage girls

The dilapidated trailer has been furnished with a sofa, camping chairs and a bucket toilet.

Two of Bateman's many wives, Naomi Bistline and Donnae Barlow, were seen in federal court in Flagstaff in early December.

(Video) Arizona polygamist cult leader has 20 wives, possibly married own daughter: FBI

Regardless, he asked all of his wives to wear red lace underwear, including the younger girls - clothes that would normally never be worn by FDLS women, who typically opt for chaste underwear that covers the entire body.

The documents also describe how Bateman's first wife, Lydia, 43, dumped him after he declared himself a prophet and gave their teenage daughter "disgusting, drooling" kisses.

The statement details how Bateman was able to control his followers by playing to their strong beliefs and combining them with a mix of mental, physical and sexual abuse.

He also urged his followers' wives and daughters to marry, whom he introduced to his own daughter as "mother" in FaceTime calls, although some of them were younger than her.

Bateman required his acolytes to participate in various sexual rites – including an incident known as the "Atonement", in which Torrance Bistline was ordered to have anal sex with one of Bateman's wives, who was only 13 at the time.


The Colorado town where Bateman and his teenage wives lived until recently was founded in 1913 by members of the Council of Friends – a splinter group from the LDS Church who wanted to practice polygamy.

Along with its sister city of Hildale, Utah, it forms part of an area known collectively as Short Creek, which became the headquarters of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-day Saints [FLDS] in 2002.

At least half of the area's 8,000 residents are descendants of founders Joseph Smith Jessop and John Barlow - with the result that the area has one of the world's highest levels of fumarase deficiency, which causes intellectual disability.

The genetic disease is believed to be a result of inbreeding - the Colorado town is also known for a high rate of cousin marriages.

Short Creek has been sleepy backwoods for most of its history, but that changed in 2000 when FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs ordered his followers to sell their homes elsewhere and move to the city.

Short Creek is the former FLDS headquarters, where leader Warren Jeffs built a 44-room mansion with the words "Pray and Obey" where he lived with his 78 wives.

Former FLDS leader Warren Jeffs started his Mormon church in Short Creek in 2000 - six years before his arrest

Although residents lived on the land they purchased, they turned the properties over to the FLDS - leaving Jeff full control of the city and the power to let city supporters, whom he considered a nuisance - including large numbers of young people in the area .

As leader, Jeffs also controlled the weddings and was the only person who could perform them - as a result of his arrest in 2006, weddings had been zero in the city for 16 years.

He also amassed a harem of 78 wives, many of whom lived with him in a massive 44-bedroom Hildale mansion that still stands and is adorned with the slogan "Pray and Obey".

Jeffs also acquired property in Eldorado, Texas, which he dubbed the Longing for Zion ranch, and sent hundreds of his followers, including unattended children, to live there.

The ranch was the scene of an infamous raid in 2008, in which police entered the property and removed over 400 children, most of whom were later returned to their parents.

In 2006, Jeffs was arrested for accessory to rape and convicted by a grand jury in St. George, Utah.

Although the convictions were overturned in 2010 due to problems with jury orders, Jeffs was convicted of two counts of child rape in Texas in 2011 and is currently serving a life sentence.

Like Jeffs, Bateman had wives from the Barlow family - including inmate Donnae Barlow - while Jeffs' wives included several Jessops.

The Bistline family, from whom Bateman took several wives, including the imprisoned Naomi, are also linked to Jeffs, the Torrance acolytes, and LaDell Jr.'s father and grandfather, both followers of the imprisoned Prophet.

LaDell Bistline Sr. and his father, F. Lee Bistline, were also accused by Arizona authorities of hiding Jeffs' Cessna plane, which they believe was used to transport underage girls.

(Video) Arizona polygamous leader: Arraignment hearing held in federal court


Where is Warren Jeffs today? ›

Jeffs is incarcerated at the Louis C. Powledge Unit of the TDCJ near Palestine, Texas.

What did Warren Jeffs do to his wives? ›

Warren Jeffs

Is the FLDS still active? ›

Does the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) still exist? Yes, the FDLS still exists today and Warren Jeffs is still considered the religious sect's leader or 'prophet'.

What happened to Sam Bateman? ›

Bateman faces a raft of state and federal charges including child abuse, obstructing a federal investigation and - along with several female followers - aiding in kidnapping girls the state foster care they were placed in after his arrest earlier this year.

Did Warren Jeffs have children? ›

Warren Jeffs

How many kids does Warren Jeffs have? ›

How many kids did Warren Jeffs have? It's hard to get an exact count, but Jeffs has at least 60 kids, according to CNN. This includes three children who have publicly spoken out about their time in the church.

Why is Warren Jeffs in a coma? ›

HOUSTON - Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs was hospitalized Monday in a medically induced coma in critical condition after fasting in the weeks since receiving a life sentence for sexually assaulting underage followers he took as spiritual brides, officials said.

How many wives does Warren Jeff have? ›

Warren Jeffs had at least 78 wives, and at the time of his arrest, 24 of them were under the age of 17. While some of Jeffs' wives remained steadfast in their beliefs after his arrest, others turned against the cult.

What is the biggest polygamy family in Utah? ›

The Darger family (Joe, Vicki, Valerie, and Alina Darger) is an independent fundamentalist Mormon polygamous family living in Utah, United States.

Where do most FLDS members live now? ›

FLDS mostly live in Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, according to CNN. The towns are, quite literally, a five-minute drive away from each other. Some others are located near Eldorado, Texas, and in South Dakota, Colorado, Nevada, British Columbia, and Mexico.

Who escaped the FLDS? ›

Rebecca Wall Musser Escaped The FLDS Church By Scaling A 6-Foot-High Gate. The newest Netflix docuseries that literally *everyone* is talking about is Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey, a four-part true crime documentary that details the corruption in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS).

Where does FLDS get their money? ›

Then the food items were placed into a shared storehouse run by the FLDS, before being distributed by FLDS-run businesses. Members were forced to purchase food items only at these businesses, so the FLDS essentially made profits from free food through money laundering.

Who is Sam Bateman? ›

Arizona polygamist cult leader Samuel Bateman had 20 wives, most under age 15. Though the current charges against Bateman are limited to tampering with evidence and aiding in abducting young girls, court documents indicated the federal government has evidence that could lead to further charges.

Who are Sam Bankman Fried parents? ›

Sam Bankman-Fried

What is the binding of Brothers Bateman? ›

In a so-called "Binding of Brothers" ritual, Bateman allegedly would often have sex with the wives of his male followers often while other men and underage girls watched.

Did Rachel Jeffs remarry? ›

Now happily remarried to a former FLDS member, Rachel Jeffs spoke to A&E True Crime about leaving the polygamous life behind, whether the FLDS could ever be brought down and how she feels about her notorious father. You grew up with polygamy in your home and all around you.

Were the FLDS families reunited? ›

CONAN: This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. The families of a polygamist group in Texas are being reunited after a West Texas judge ordered all of the children taken into Child Protective Services, more than four hundred released from state custody, and returned to their parents.

How long was Warren Jeffs in a coma? ›

(CBS/KYTX) HOUSTON - Prison officials told a CBS Texas station that Polygamist Sect Leader Warren Jeffs was never in a coma.

How many wives did Joseph Smith have? ›

In an essay posted without fanfare to its website in late October, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said for the first time that Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon church, had as many as 40 wives. Some of those women were also married to friends of his. And one was only 14 when she became Smith's wife.

Did Rulon Jeffs have children with all his wives? ›

He was the father of later FLDS Church leader and convicted felon Warren Jeffs.
Rulon Jeffs
Spouse(s)65, including Rebecca Musser
ChildrenAs many as 65, including Warren, Seth, Nephi, and Lyle Jeffs
ParentsDavid William Ward Jeffs Nettie Lenora Timpson
14 more rows

How many wives did Wallace Jeffs have? ›

Wallace has divorced his two wives and is now remarried to someone from the LDS church (aka the Mormon church).

Who is head of the FLDS now? ›

Members of the FLDS still practice it, and a former member says in Netflix's four-part documentary that within the group, “a man's status depends on how many wives he has”. Warren Jeffs became the group's leader following the death of his father Rulon Jeffs in 2002.

Will Warren Jeffs ever get out? ›

The FLDS leader was later convicted on two counts of sexual assault of a child and received a life sentence in prison in 2011. He is eligible for parole in July 2038.

Do people still believe Warren Jeffs is a prophet? ›

Current members still treat Warren Jeffs as their prophet and believe he was wrongly convicted. As per reports, church membership oscillates between 6000 and 10,000. According to some members of the group, members have to take time to pray for Jeffs' release.

Is polygamy legal in Utah? ›

According to Utah Law, polygamy or bigamy is a crime. Polygamy is considered a third degree felony in the state. This means you could potentially spend a long time in prison (up to 5 years) and pay hefty fines (up to $5,000).

Is the YFZ Ranch still there? ›

The YFZ Ranch is a 1,691-acre tract with space enough for a self-sustaining community and an orchard filled with trees of apples, peaches and pears. Now all that remains is a towering white stone temple and numerous buildings, a majority that were used for housing.

Is Mormon and FLDS the same? ›

The FLDS Is Different from Modern Day Mormon Church

The Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints is a radical polygamist sect that splintered off from the Mormon Church, a religion more formally called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, more than a century ago.

Which states allow polygamy? ›

Polygamy as a crime originated in the common law, and it is now outlawed in every state. In the United States, polygamy was declared unlawful through the passing of Edmunds Anti-Polygamy Act of 1882.

Can you have 2 husbands in Utah? ›

While plural marriage is illegal under Utah's constitution, officials in the state have largely chosen not to prosecute those involved. In 2001, polygamist Tom Green became the first man to be convicted of bigamy in more than half a century over his marriage to five women.

How many wives can you marry in Utah? ›

The state of Utah can continue to limit one marriage license to two people, under the same rules it has always followed, just as every other state does. But the problem with Utah's law is that it didn't just outlaw true polygamy, which is the practice of claiming more than one legal spouse at a time.

Who runs the FLDS now 2022? ›

Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) leader Warren Jeffs back on trial.

Does the YFZ Ranch still exist? ›

The YFZ Ranch is a 1,691-acre tract with space enough for a self-sustaining community and an orchard filled with trees of apples, peaches and pears. Now all that remains is a towering white stone temple and numerous buildings, a majority that were used for housing.

Who is the FLDS prophet now? ›

Warren Jeffs' father, Rulon Jeffs—known to his followers as Uncle Rulon—was the president of the FLDS from 1986 until his death in 2002. He was survived by approximately 20 wives and 60 children. Warren Jeffs succeeded his father as both president and 'prophet' and continues to lead the FLDS today.

How many members are left in the FLDS church? ›

It's not entirely clear, but A&E estimates that about 6,000 to 10,000 people are still believed to be a part of the church.

How do FLDS make money? ›

Then the food items were placed into a shared storehouse run by the FLDS, before being distributed by FLDS-run businesses. Members were forced to purchase food items only at these businesses, so the FLDS essentially made profits from free food through money laundering.

Who owns the FLDS Temple in Texas? ›

According to the article dated March 1, the ranch is being purchased by ETG Properties LLC, a Dallas-area company, who intend to use the nearly 1,700-acre ranch as a military and law-enforcement training base.

What happened to the children YFZ Ranch? ›

After Judge Barbara Walther of the 51st District Court issued an order authorizing officials to remove all children, including boys, 17 years old and under, from the ranch, eventually a total of 462 children went into the temporary custody of the State of Texas.

What happened to the FLDS Zion Ranch in Texas? ›

The ranch and all of its improvements were forfeited to the state in 2014 after Jeffs and nine other men were convicted or pled guilty to bigamy and sex crimes committed on the property.


1. Ex-Arizona FLDS leader charged after girls found in enclosed trailer
(FOX 10 Phoenix)
2. 8 underage girls suspected to be involved with FLDS leader rescued in Spokane
3. 8 underage girls suspected to be wives of FLDS leader rescued in Spokane
(KREM 2 News)
4. Polygamist Cult 'Prophet' Faces Kidnapping Charges for Towing Underage Girls in Trailer with Wives
(Law&Crime Network)
5. Polygamist Cult 'Prophet' Sam Bateman Caught Towing Underage Girls in Trailer with Porta-Potty
(Law&Crime Network)
6. Polygamist 'Prophet' Caught Transporting Underage Girls in Trailer Charged with Child Abuse
(Law&Crime Network)
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