Date: May 25, 2023
Phoenix, Arizona – Shocking new revelations have emerged from a recently filed federal indictment consisting of 53 felony counts against a polygamist fundamentalist cult based in Arizona and its leader, Samuel Bateman. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Arizona has expanded the charges, accusing Bateman, who identifies as the prophet of a splinter group from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and 10 others of sexually harming nine girls aged between 9 and 17 at the time of the alleged offenses.
The extensive indictment, filed on May 18, supersedes a previous limited indictment against Bateman and three followers. The latest court documents provide a more comprehensive picture of the case, showcasing the widening scope of the investigation and the increasingly serious nature of the charges.
The new allegations draw from Bateman’s own writings and statements made by some of the girls, as revealed in documents filed in U.S. District Court in Arizona. The indictment unveils stories of Bateman coercing young girls into engaging in sexual acts with him and other adults, exchanging nights with girls for luxury Bentley cars, compelling children to participate in live-streamed group sex acts, and transporting the girls across state lines for sexual exploitation.
Previously charged in December alongside Naomi Bistline, Donnae Barlow, and Moretta Johnson, whom Bateman claimed as his wives, Bateman and the additional defendants now face a range of charges from child pornography production to transporting minors for sexual activity.
Samuel Bateman, a 47-year-old leader of an FLDS sect in Colorado City, Arizona, remains shrouded in mystery. While referring to himself as a prophet, little else is known about him beyond the accounts of Colorado City and Hilldale residents.
The events in Colorado City, Arizona, unfolded when Arizona Department of Public Safety troopers encountered a GMC Denali on Interstate 40 on August 28. They observed a child’s hand protruding from a trailer attached to the vehicle, leading to Bateman’s subsequent arrest. Although initially booked into Coconino County jail on suspicion of child endangerment, Bateman was eventually released.
The involvement of the FBI in the case stemmed from suspicions that Bateman was deleting records from a cellphone app during and after his arrest and maintaining communication with supporters in Colorado City while in jail. Consequently, federal agents searched Bateman’s home on September 13 and subsequently brought new federal charges against him for interfering with the destruction of records.
The indictment presents a detailed timeline of “overt acts” beginning in 2019 when Bateman declared himself a prophet and ending with his arrest by federal agents in the fall of 2022. The court documents describe instances where Bateman manipulated underage girls into becoming his wives, claiming divine commands from God. For many of these girls, the marriage ceremony became their first introduction to sexual relations, instilling fear in some of the victims.
At the time of his apprehension, Bateman claimed to have 10 wives and 10 underage girls. However, the true identities of most of these individuals remain unknown. Previous filings alluded to disturbing allegations, including coerced sex acts, child transportation for sexual purposes, and attempts to marry one of Bateman’s underage daughters. The latest details provided in the indictment delve deeper into the horrifying nature of the crimes.
The new accusations reveal that in March 2020, Bateman, citing a vision from God, began a manipulative pattern of taking underage girls as his wives. The indictment alleges that he took a 9-year-old girl, identified as M.J.’s daughter, and later had her sleep in his bed four months later. Similar accounts in the indictment indicate that Bateman repeated this pattern at least seven more times, taking four additional daughters from M.J. with ages ranging from 10 to 14. Furthermore, two girls aged 9 and 10 were taken from co-defendants LaDell Bistline and Josephine Bistline. Shockingly, Bateman also claimed Josephine Bistline as his wife.
The indictment includes disturbing accounts of sexual acts involving Bateman and the young girls. In one instance, Bateman wrote about sleeping with a girl referred to as “Angel Mother.” Additionally, previous filings implicated LaDell Bistline in group sex acts with the girls. The new allegations describe Bateman offering one of the children for sexual activity to LaDell Bistline in exchange for a night with Bistline’s wife.
The indictment also sheds light on the extravagant favors bestowed upon Bateman by his followers. Prosecutors revealed that a wealthy farm engineer, Torrance Bistline, purchased a luxury Bentley for Bateman. Months later, Bateman allegedly offered a 12-year-old girl to Torrance Bistline, watching as they engaged in sexual activity. As a result, Torrance Bistline allegedly bought Bateman a second Bentley shortly after the incident.
During Bateman’s confinement in Coconino County Jail following his arrest in Flagstaff, he was accused of contacting Torrance Bistline and other followers to facilitate the deletion of incriminating messages and documents from digital devices, as detailed in the indictment. Moreover, a 15-year-old girl claimed that Bateman coerced another 15-year-old girl into engaging in sexual acts while she was made to watch.
When federal agents arrived on the scene on September 13, as outlined in the indictment, some of the older women associated with the cult attempted to dispose of or conceal evidence. In one instance, a woman reportedly threw a backpack filled with condoms and digital devices out of a window.
Prosecutors are also seeking to seize Bateman’s belongings if he is convicted, including two homes in Colorado City known as the “Blue House” and the “Green House.” The indictment alleges that several of the girls were taken to the Green House, where Bateman allegedly orchestrated group sex acts.
With a total of 53 felony counts, Bateman faces charges such as child pornography production, interstate travel with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor, and transportation of a minor for criminal sexual activity. The other defendants each face varying counts related to their involvement in the crimes, including kidnapping, conspiracy, tampering with evidence, and engaging in sexual activity with minors.
Samuel Bateman is scheduled to be arraigned in court in Phoenix on Friday, where the legal proceedings will commence. The indictment’s extensive and alarming allegations underscore the urgent need to protect vulnerable individuals and hold those responsible for such heinous acts accountable for their crimes.
Reported by Miguel Torres of the arizonarepublic.com