[Warning: Potentially Triggering Content]
A “self-proclaimed prophet” in rural Arizona is the target of a new FBI investigation after allegedly taking more than 20 wives, including minor children, as part of his supposed religious activities.
On Tuesday, NBC News reported on a new FBI affidavit outlining the law enforcement agency’s investigation into Samuel Rappylee Bateman (pictured above) of Colorado City, Arizona. According to the report, Bateman is the leader of a small branch of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. That church, known as FLDS, long ago broke off from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon church, after the latter outlawed polygamy within its ranks decades before.
Bateman’s church sect follows the teachings of famed FLDS leader and convicted child rapist Warren Jeffs. Jeffs was previously a notorious head of the fundamentalist polygamist outfit prior to his conviction on child sexual assault charges in 2011. Bateman claims to have had a close relationship with Jeffs, and is even a prophet following the disgraced former leader, whom he calls “Uncle Warren.” Now, the FBI is focused on Bateman and his alleged activities in that same realm.
According to NBC News, the affidavit was filed this week after eight girls who had previously been under Bateman’s care were tracked to a home in Washington. They had escaped from group homes in Arizona after having previously been taken from Bateman’s compound and placed in state custody. At the time, none of the girls “disclosed actual sexual abuse by Bateman,” per the affidavit, “but at least one admitted being present and partially nude” for what NBC News reports were “sex orgies.”
They were taken into custody from Bateman back in September. Then, they ran away from Arizona-based group homes near the end of November. On Thursday of last week, a sheriff’s sergeant in Spokane County, Washington pulled over a vehicle being driven by one of Bateman’s wives. In it as passengers were all eight of the missing girls. Now, the affidavit has also named Bateman’s wife as a defendant in the case. It accuses her of kidnapping and obstruction.
The affidavit is still part of the FBI’s early findings in this case. Bateman has not yet been charged with sex crimes in this case. However, the court document claims there is “probable cause” that he “participated in sexual activity with minors” in Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and Nebraska over the last several years.
One defendant interviewed in the affidavit claims she became one of Bateman’s wives before she turned 18. Then, she gave birth seven months after her 18th birthday, according to the report. Another affidavit claim alleges Bateman took a second wife with whom he had a daughter back in 2005. That woman eventually left the leader, and “that’s when he began accumulating wives,” according to NBC News.
A couple previously acquainted with Bateman reported that he drove to their home in December 2020 “in a large SUV packed with women and girls.” Once there, the affidavit noted, Bateman “introduced everyone as his wives.” According to the couple in their report to the FBI, the youngest of the girls at that meeting was born in 2011. A nine-year-old?! Seriously??
The FBI also discovered a video interview filmed later in December 2020. On that tape, a minor explains how she was allegedly asked by Bateman if she had prayed over whom she was going to marry. The girl reportedly replied that she was too young to marry. But according to the affidavit, Bateman told her he “felt like she was his wife.” Then, the girl told investigators, he allegedly gave her a “nasty kiss” that she described as “slobbery.”
The “slobbery” kiss report also comes up elsewhere in the affidavit, which was filed by FBI Agent Dawn A. Martin. According to Rolling Stone, in 2019, Bateman was on a road trip with his then-14-year-old daughter. At a rest stop during the trip, Bateman allegedly gave the girl a bag of Doritos and $50 while pushing her to marry. He then asked what kind of car she would like to own, “like a bribe,” per the affidavit. To seal the deal, he allegedly gave his teenage daughter “nasty” and “slobbery” kisses. Then, he “described in graphic detail how he would make a baby with her.” So unbelievably disgusting…
Elsewhere in the affidavit, authorities say they have secured “journals from some of Bateman’s wives,” per NBC News. In writing the affidavit out, Agent Martin explained:
“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.”
That’s a critical part of the investigation, because Bateman is already on the hook for tampering with records. Back in September, the 46-year-old man was arrested following a separate indictment on charges of destroying records. Per the FBI, he has been charged with three counts in that case: destruction of records or an attempt to destroy records in an official proceeding; tampering or attempting to tamper with an official proceeding; and destruction of records in a federal investigation.
FBI agents are focused on Bateman’s use of Signal to communicate with his wives. They claim he tampered with and deleted message evidence from the encrypted app, which he used to send messages to his wives, children, and followers. Bateman has pleaded not guilty in that case. He has been in jail in Arizona since September on those charges. That month, federal agents also raided his compound in Colorado City, which is in a rural part of the state near the Utah border. It was during that raid that the aforementioned girls were removed from his compound and taken into state custody before their escape in November.
At the time of the raid and Batmean’s arrest on record-tampering charges, he had been out on bond in another separate case in which he was charged with three counts of child abuse. In August, Arizona state police pulled Bateman over on a highway and found three girls between ages 11 and 14 “locked in a cargo trailer with a bucket for a toilet and no ventilation,” per NBC News. He also pleaded not guilty on those child abuse charges, which were levied at the state level.
In sum, the most recent affidavit claims Bateman has amassed more than 20 wives, with “most of them under the age of 15.” He also has an additional group of followers that numbers nearly 50 more people, the FBI filing claims. The investigation into these new allegations is ongoing after Agent Martin’s filing. All of Bateman’s previous charges continue to wind their way through the court system, as well.
Here is the latest on the rescue of those eight girls in Washington, and the situation involving Bateman’s FLDS sect (below):
What a sick and awful situation.
If you have sincere cause to suspect child abuse, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453, or go to www.childhelp.org.
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence and would like to learn more about resources, consider checking out https://www.rainn.org/resources.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, help is available. Consider calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233, or text START to 88788, or go to https://www.thehotline.org/.
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