A previously convicted doomsday cult leader who hoped to grow old with an 8-year-old girl and believed child marriage to be a “correct principle from God” was sentenced to at least 15 years in prison on Wednesday.
Samuel Shaffer pleaded guilty in a Utah courtroom to one felony count of child sodomy, according to the Deseret News. Other charges were dropped, including bigamy and lewdness involving a child.
Shaffer said during the hearing in Manti that he hoped to have a family with the little girl.
“I sincerely believed that child marriage was a correct principle from God,” he said, according to the Deseret News. “And I’ve seen the consequences of what’s happened, and I know that I shouldn’t have done it now. But I sincerely believed that the practice was correct at the time.”
He had been sentenced last month to at least 26 years in prison after pleading guilty to child rape and abuse charges. The new sentence won’t extend his time behind bars.
“I’m not aware of any religion in this world that justifies an adult having a sexual relationship with an 8-year-old girl,” Judge Marvin Bagley said Wednesday, according to the Deseret News. “Certainly it’s a violation of Utah law.”
Shaffer, a leader of the Knights of the Crystal Blade, was charged in December after police raided a remote desert compound in Iron County and found four girls. He and fellow cult leader John Coltharp took each other’s children as brides, according to prosecutors.
The 35-year-old Shaffer told the judge that he once had “romantic interest” in the 8-year-old girl but now truly cares about her.
“If you have that concern for her well-being and care about her, why did you do what you did?” the judge asked, according to the Deseret News.
“I want her to know that it’s OK and I love her and I never want her to feel guilty about it. I want her to be happy,” he responded.
Sanpete County Attorney Kevin Daniels told the newspaper that Shaffer’s comments revealed “some pretty twisted thinking.”
“Sexual abuse in and of itself causes a lot of damage, but when it’s done under the auspices of religion, it makes it even worse,” Daniels told the newspaper. “It’s egregious.”
Coltharp married two of the young girls. He pleaded guilty to sodomy and child bigamy charges earlier this month, and will be sentenced this summer.