SPOKANE, Wash. — Content warning: This story contains descriptions of kidnapping, child marriage and sexual assault. Reader discretion is advised.
Eight underage girls were recently rescued from an Airbnb in Spokane. Documents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reveal the ongoing investigation into a polygamist cult leader and his followers now accused of sexual abuse and kidnapping.
All girls were believed to be involved in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), a religious sect of the fundamentalist Mormon denominations whose members practice polygamy.
45-year-old Samuel Bateman is currently behind bars facing multiple charges as part of a federal arrest warrant. According to investigators, Bateman has engaged in criminal sexual activity for years and claims to have more than 20 wives, almost all under the age of 15.
According to court documents, Bateman began to proclaim himself as a prophet of the FLDS church in 2019 and enlisted about 50 followers. Throughout the last three years, investigators say Bateman convinced several male followers to give their own wives and children to Bateman to become his wives.
Records detail multiple instances in hotel rooms spanning four different states: Arizona, Utah, Nevada and Nebraska.
Officials said Bateman and his co-conspirators transported minors across state lines to engage in criminal sexual activity and illicit sexual conduct with minors.
According to investigators, much of their information came from a couple who had been filming a documentary with Bateman, earning his trust to interview his wives and document their "testimonies."
During one instance, investigators describe an audio recording of a sexual encounter where Bateman reportedly gave several of his young wives to three adult male followers.
Records state the girls were "crying on the recording, and said they hurt."
In the recording, Bateman reportedly told the girls they "sacrificed their virtue for the Lord," to which the girls responded, "it's a privilege to hurt for someone else so they can rise."
Bateman was arrested in Arizona in August for child endangerment and his cell phone was seized as evidence. From jail, Bateman reportedly made a phone call to one of his young wives, saying, "Delete my Signal account now, the whole thing, delete every message right now."
His family bailed him out of custody on Sept. 1, but Bateman was re-arrested two weeks later for the destruction of records and tampering with evidence.
Nine underage females were taken into custody of the Arizona Department of Child Services, but on Nov. 27, eight of them ran away. Investigators believe they were then driven across state lines by three of Bateman's adult wives to an Airbnb in Spokane.
The Spokane County Sheriff's Office (SCSO) was requested to check on the property. Deputies said they witnessed a car leaving the house and stopped the vehicle, which contained all eight missing girls.
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