Two Utah girls have been found safe nearly three months after they were allegedly kidnapped by their father, who family members feared had betrothed them to a polygamist sect leader. John Coltharp, said to be 33 or 34, was arrested in Sanpete County Friday on suspicion of kidnapping and obstruction of justice, but his daughters, ages 4 and 8, and two sons, ages 6 and 7, remained missing until Monday, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. That’s when police raided a compound used by the Knights of the Crystal Blade, a polygamist sect Coltharp founded with Samuel Warren Shaffer after he was excommunicated from the Mormon Church, Coltharp’s ex-wife says, per the New York Daily News. She has custody of the kids. Coltharp’s sons were removed from the compound while police arrested Shaffer, 34, who told authorities where they could find Coltharp’s daughters, along with his own two.
The Iron County Sheriff’s Office says the girls were found “dehydrated and cold,” per the Spectrum. Two were in a locked trailer about 5 miles from the compound, while two others were hiding in nearby water barrels, authorities say, adding the girls might not have survived the cool night, per CBS News. Coltharp is alleged to have taken his children from their Spring City home in September. His ex-wife was granted custody on Nov. 27, but the search for them intensified when Coltharp was arrested and refused to reveal their location. An attorney for Coltharp’s ex-wife says Coltharp previously stated he “would rather see the kids dead than with the police.” A relative adds family members feared Coltharp was planning marriages for his daughters as he “said to all of [his] siblings in the past that girls are meant to get married at the age of 12,” per the Tribune.