Eight underage girls who were rescued from an Arizona polygamist cult leader by child welfare officials ran away from their group homes and hid in a Washington state Airbnb, according to a report.
The eight and one additional girl had been taken from the homes of Samuel Bateman — the leader of a small offshoot of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints — and placed in the group homes under the custody of the Arizona Department of Child Safety in September.
Last Sunday, however, the eight girls, who range in age from 11 to 16, went missing from the homes outside Phoenix, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
They were found four days later at a Airbnb in Spokane, Washington with a Bateman follower named Moretta Rose Johnson, 19, who has since been accused of kidnapping, according to a federal complaint obtained by the paper. Johnson reportedly married Bateman when she was underage, according to KXLY.
A 24-year-old woman was also arrested in Colorado City, Arizona, in relation to the missing girls. She was booked into the Mohave County jail on suspicion of kidnapping, obstructing a criminal investigation, resisting arrest and tampering with a witness, the outlet reported.
FBI agents had traced a credit card linked to a business of one of Bateman’s followers to the reservation on the Airbnb rental site, the court documents state.
The girls were considered runaways, according to the Tribune.
All nine children and teens were removed from Bateman’s homes on Sept. 14 when the FBI searched his properties looking for evidence that he had underage wives or engaged in sex acts with minors, according to a FBI affidavit.
Bateman, 46, has been accused of wedding more than 20 women, most under the age of 15 — reportedly including his own daughter.
Bateman allegedly made sexual advances towards his own daughter, first bribing her with two bags of Doritos and $50 and saying “if his feelings were right he would do what a boy does to make [her] have a baby,” KXYLY reported.
While he hasn’t been charged with sexual abuse or other related crimes, the affidavit claims the FBI has probable cause to believe he and others transported minors between Arizona, Utah, Nevada and Nebraska to engage in illicit sexual conduct between May 2020 and November 2021.
Bateman has remained jailed since late August when authorities found three young girls, between the ages of 11 and 14, locked inside a cargo trailer he was towing near Flagstaff.