Officials took away girls from a historically polygamous community on the Utah-Arizona border. Then the girls disappeared.

The girls were removed in September after FBI agents arrested Samuel Bateman, the leader of a new offshoot of the FLDS creed.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Three girls cling to each other before being removed from the home of Samuel Bateman in Colorado City, Arizona, following his arrest in September.

In September, after federal agents raided Colorado City and ransacked the homes of Samuel Bateman, the leader of a small new offshoot of the polygamous fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Arizona child protection officials removed a group of young girls from among his followers .

The nine girls, ages 11 to 16, have since been in the care of the Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS) and are living in shared homes in a suburb of Phoenix.

But last Sunday almost all of them disappeared.

According to Arizona police records, as of Nov. 27, law enforcement listed eight of the nine girls as “missing juveniles.” Multiple agencies told The Salt Lake Tribune that the girls were ruled runaways, with Glendale Sgt. Randy Stewart adding, “We are not seeking help from the public at this time.”

It is not clear where the girls are now as police have not responded to requests for comment. Half of the girls have been removed from Arizona’s missing children list, while missing posters for four of them remain online.

But one of Bateman’s followers, a 24-year-old woman, was arrested Thursday and jailed at the Mohave County Jail on suspicion of kidnapping, obstructing a criminal investigation, resisting arrest and tampering with a witness. No further information was initially available about the arrest of the woman.

Phoenix police confirmed the girls who were reported missing in their city were in Arizona DCS custody at the time. Child protection officials declined to comment on the situation, citing confidentiality laws.

A family member of three of the children confirmed that the eight girls listed as missing on November 27 are the same young people who were forced from their homes as part of the September raid and Bateman’s subsequent arrest, Lean however, a further opinion.

The FBI searched Bateman’s homes on Sept. 13 looking for evidence of underage marriages, according to a search warrant shared with The Tribune. Federal agents confiscated computers, handwritten notes and journals, cell phones and other items from Bateman’s apartments, according to a receipt for property shared with The Tribune.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) FBI agents raid the home of Samuel Bateman in Colorado City, Arizona on Tuesday, September 13, 2022.

Bateman was not charged with sexual abuse or related crimes, but he remained in jail after prosecutors said authorities discovered three young girls in a locked cargo trailer he was towing near Flagstaff in late August. He also faces federal charges for allegedly instructing his followers to delete the messaging app Signal from his phone after he was arrested. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges and three other counts of child molestation.

According to federal prosecutors, Bateman was recorded making a phone call to the prison instructing another man to delete the account.

“The whole thing,” Bateman said, according to a court filing. “Any message, right now.”

Bateman has been in the Coconino County jail since his arrest in September after a federal judge ordered he be held without the option of bail.

U.S. District Judge Camille Bibles found Bateman to be a flight hazard, noting that he was a licensed pilot and “licensed survivor.” The judge also noted that the man had instructed his followers to get passports for the young girls and women in his group “for reasons that are unclear.” Officials took away girls from a historically polygamous community on the Utah-Arizona border. Then the girls disappeared.

Justin Scacco

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