Polygamous Leader Had 'Wives' as Young as 9: FBI

Samuel Bateman, 46, was arrested over the summer
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 7, 2022 2:00 AM CST
Updated Dec 7, 2022 6:45 AM CST
Polygamous Leader Had 'Wives' as Young as 9: FBI
This undated photo provided by the Coconino County Sheriff's Office shows Samuel Bateman, who faces state child abuse charges, and federal charges of tampering with evidence. Bateman is the leader of a small polygamous group near the Arizona-Utah border.   (Coconino County Sheriff's Department via AP)

The leader of a polygamous sect near the Arizona-Utah border had more than 20 "wives," including children, according to an FBI affidavit filed Friday in federal court. Samuel Rappylee Bateman, a 46-year-old self-described "prophet" and former leader of a branch of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, was arrested over the summer in Arizona and is in federal custody in the state on charges of obstruction of justice related to him allegedly asking followers to delete a phone app he used to communicate with them and his "wives," the Washington Post reports. He also faces state-level child abuse charges. Nine girls who were in Bateman's custody were removed and placed in state custody when he was arrested, and last week eight of them ran away from their group homes. They were found at an Airbnb in Washington state Thursday, and the affidavit was filed the next day, NBC News reports.

The affidavit says there is probable cause Bateman participated in sex crimes with minors, some of whom were allegedly transported across state lines for that purpose, though he is not currently charged with any such crimes. More of what it reveals:

  • His daughter: In 2019 Bateman was married to just one woman, but that year he allegedly told his own daughter, who was 14 at the time, that he felt like she was his wife and would make her have a baby if he was right. His wife moved out with their daughter and got a restraining order, but he continued to make inappropriate comments to his daughter, the affidavit says.
  • Minor wives: The affidavit says that from that point on, Bateman accumulated "wives," the youngest of whom was born in 2011 and was just 9 when Bateman allegedly introduced her as one of his wives in 2020. Many of the girls were under the age of 15, the affidavit says. "I have reviewed a number of the journals seized during the search warrants, and there are details referenced by several of the girls about sleeping with Bateman, kissing him, and touching him," the affidavit says.
  • Runaways: After the girls who ran from state custody were tracked down, none of them "disclosed actual sexual abuse by Bateman, but at least one admitted being present and partially nude" for sex orgies, the affidavit says.
  • Women accused: One of Bateman's "wives," who gave birth seven months after turning 18, per the affidavit, is accused along with two other women of kidnapping and obstruction in charges related to the runaway girls, AZ Family reports. She is now 19.
  • Bateman's view: The affidavit says Bateman claimed it was his "Heavenly Father's will" that he engage in sex acts with minors, and he told followers that Warren Jeffs was now speaking through him and he was their new prophet, according to an extensive Salt Lake Tribune piece. He also allegedly forced some of his young "wives" to engage in sex acts with other male followers.
(More polygamous sect stories.)

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