Source: NBC RightNow
A polygamous leader helped girls he considered his wives escape last month from Arizona group homes, according to an affidavit filed this week that alleges he did so from a federal prison.
The filing said Samuel Rappylee Bateman helped orchestrate the escape in a series of video calls from the Central Arizona Florence Correctional Complex, the facility where he is being held while he awaits trial on charges that include altering and destroying records, obstruction and kidnapping.
Bateman, of Colorado City, Arizona, had multiple calls with his adult wives the day of and in the days following the Nov. 27 escape of eight girls from group homes where they were under the care of the Arizona Department of Child Safety, according to the affidavit filed Wednesday by federal prosecutors in the state.
Bateman is a self-proclaimed prophet with more than 20 wives and about 50 followers, federal authorities have said. He is the leader of a branch of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on the Arizona and Utah border.
Bateman was 46 when he was arrested in September following an indictment on charges of destroying records linked to a federal investigation. The new affidavit supplements those previous charges against Bateman and three of his adult wives, who are co-defendants. It alleges they conspired to kidnap and transport multiple girls across state lines.
Eight girls, three of whom were under 14, were tracked to an Airbnb in Washington state on Dec. 1, prosecutors said.
Federal prosecutors have alleged Bateman has said it’s the “Heavenly Father’s will” he participate in sex acts with the girls he considered his wives. Bateman has not been charged with sex crimes, but a previous federal filing said there is probable cause he participated in sexual activity with minors who were transported between Arizona, Utah, Nevada and Nebraska in 2020 and 2021.
Attorneys for Bateman could not be reached for comment Friday.
The affidavit released this week alleges Bateman made a video call to one of his adult wives the day the eight girls escaped from state custody. She was driving while a second adult wife was in the passenger seat, according to the filing.
One wife told Bateman she had “Janes Does 8 and 9, referenced by code names,” the affidavit said.
The following morning, the affidavit said, Bateman made another video call from prison and spoke to an adult wife who appeared to be in a hotel room. The two spoke in code, the affidavit said, and the wife called one of the girls “W2,” which was a reference to a ninth girl who had not escaped from foster home and “was the only one not with them.”
According to the affidavit, Bateman said, “They needed to get W2,” and “the video panned to all eight minors taken from CPS custody.”
Bateman made numerous video calls to an adult wife and the girls, asking at one point if the children were in “our state,” the filing said.
During another call, one of Bateman’s wives told him “they had cleaned out one of the vehicles and were swapping,” according to the affidavit.
A representative of the federal prison where Bateman is housed would not discuss his alleged calls and if they were monitored, saying “we are not in a position to comment on any type of active investigation.”
However, the spokesperson said inmates are allowed to make video calls using facility-provided tablets that are located within the housing unit day rooms. The use of these tablets is limited to day room hours, which is usually from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Calls are allowed for inmates who have the necessary funds on their account to make these calls, the representative said.
The calls are randomly monitored, and all video calls are recorded. Confidentiality of calls is limited to what is specified in the visitation and contact instructions for the facility, the representative said.
Violation of such may result in disciplinary action, to include restricted access of tablet usage, according to the representative.
On Dec. 1, the affidavit said, one of Bateman’s adult wives had the eight girls in a Spokane, Washington, Airbnb that was paid for by one of his followers.
She refused to answer the door, the affidavit said, for a Spokane County Sheriff’s Office sergeant. She was stopped as she tried to drive away with the girls, according to the filing.