Woman linked to polygamous Arizona leader accused of threats

The indictment marks the fourth woman associated with the self-proclaimed prophet Samuel Bateman to face federal charges.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Family and supporters of polygamous cult leader Samuel Bateman gather as he calls from police custody following his arrest September 13, 2022 in Colorado City, Arizona. On March 24, 2023, federal charges were filed against Josephine Barlow Bistline, who is believed to be married to Bateman, and is accused of sending threatening emails to child welfare workers to have her two daughters released from state foster care.

phoenix • A woman believed to be one of the 20 wives of a polygamous cult leader jailed in Arizona faces federal charges for allegedly sending threatening emails to child welfare workers to get her two daughters out of state release foster family.

The indictment against Josephine Barlow Bistline is the fourth woman associated with the self-proclaimed prophet Samuel Bateman to face federal charges. Three of Bateman’s wives were previously charged with kidnapping and obstructing anticipated prosecution after eight girls linked to the cult fled foster care.

According to authorities, Bistline told a case manager at the Arizona Department of Child Safety in a March 24 email that she would be taken to jail, where she would live on a ventilator and people would have to help her breathe and clean up after her.

According to a criminal complaint filed against her, Bistline told the case manager, “And you know, I wouldn’t mind helping with that, too. Because I love you. But you went too far.”

Bistline has pleaded not guilty to charges of cyberstalking and interstate communications involving threats. A judge ordered her to be detained pending trial. She was charged in late March.

Mark Paige, an attorney representing Bistline, did not immediately respond Wednesday for comment.

Bateman and his followers practice polygamy, a legacy of the early teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The mainstream faith widely known as the Mormon Church abandoned the practice in 1890 and now strictly prohibits it.

Bateman, 46, lived in Colorado City, Arizona, a remote community on the Utah border where polygamy has long been openly practiced.

He was first arrested in August when someone spotted pinky fingers in the gap in a trailer he was towing through Flagstaff, Arizona. Police found three girls, aged between 11 and 14, in a makeshift room in the unventilated trailer.

Bateman posted bail but was arrested again in September and charged with obstructing justice in a federal probe into whether children were transported across state lines for sexual activity.

He is said to have taken more than 20 wives, including underage girls, although he does not face any charges directly related to this allegation.

Bateman has pleaded not guilty to federal and state charges including child molestation, obstruction of a federal investigation and aiding and abetting in the kidnapping.

Authorities removed nine children from Bateman’s home and placed them in foster care.

But eight of the children later escaped, and the FBI claimed the three women played a role in getting them out of Arizona. The women have pleaded not guilty.

The girls – two of whom are Bistline’s daughters – were found hundreds of miles away in Spokane, Washington. They stay in foster families.

In another email, Bistline stated that Bateman was innocent and said a case worker sided with Judas Iscariot, the biblical figure known for betraying Jesus Christ and later killing himself.

According to the criminal complaint, Bistline wrote, “Unless you repent and admit that you did the wrong thing and fix it, you will be among them.” Bistline’s trial is scheduled for May 23, 2024. Bateman and his three wives are scheduled to appear in court on March 5, 2024.

Justin Scaccy

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