Utah kidnapping suspect charged; children found in 50-gallon barrel and ‘deplorable’ mobile home

Mug shots: Samuel Warren Shaffer

CEDAR CITY, Utah —The Iron County Attorney’s Office filed charges Wednesday against a man accused of kidnapping two girls, prompting the issuance of an Amber Alert Monday.

Samuel Warren Shaffer, 34, faces two first-degree felony counts of child kidnapping and four second-degree felony counts of child abuse.

A statement from the Iron County Sheriff’s Office said Shaffer is believed to be a member of a religious affiliation called “Knights of the Crystal Blade,” and the children he’s accused of kidnapping belong to a fellow member.

According to the Iron County Sheriff’s Office, a woman contacted the Iron County Sheriff’s Office on Friday to ask for help in locating her four missing children, whom she believed were in the custody of the children’s grandparents.

On Monday, deputies found vehicles registered to the grandparents in a remote area of northern Iron County. Deputies spoke with those grandparents at their makeshift residence, where they later found two of the missing children. The Sheriff’s Office described the residence as a “compound” made from shipping containers.

Deputies learned Shaffer had been last seen on Sunday with the other two missing children, along with two of his own children, the statement said. On Monday afternoon, the Sheriff’s Office issued an Amber Alert for the two children who aren’t Shaffer’s.

Later that afternoon, deputies received a report of a man matching Shaffer’s description walking on a dirt road several miles west of the compound. Deputies took Shaffer into custody without incident.

Deputies searched the area near the compound and found two children in a 50-gallon water barrel. According to a statement of probable cause, one of the children in the barrel was Shaffer’s and the other was one of the four who were reported missing.

“According to Shaffer, the children had been placed into the water barrel to conceal or hide them from being found by searching law-enforcement, and the children had spent an estimated 24 hours inside the barrel in sub-freezing temperatures,” the probable cause statement said. “These two children were not properly dressed for cold temperatures, had no food or water, and Shaffer admitted he left a firearm he was carrying while fleeing from Law Enforcement lying on the ground next to the barrel.”

Shaffer initially refused to disclose the location of his other child and the fourth missing child, a statement from the Sheriff’s Office said, but, after an hour, he provided the location of an abandoned single-wide mobile home.

“[Shaffer’s other child and the fourth missing child] were located in poor health with signs of dehydration and acting lethargic,” the statement said.

Those two children were found in “deplorable living conditions,” the probable cause statement said.

Shaffer’s two children and two of the children who were reported missing were taken by helicopter to Cedar City Hospital. The youngest of the four was later flown to Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City for further treatment.