Alleged cult leader, John Coltharp, appears in court

May 2, 2018, 6:32 PM | Updated: Jun 7, 2018, 5:51 pm

MANTI, Utah – The leader of a doomsday cult accused of kidnapping and child sex abuse tried to fire his court-appointed attorney and made statements in court the judge warned could be used against him at trial.

The courtroom theatrics overshadowed the disturbing details of the case Tuesday. It all began with John Coltharp, age 34, telling the judge he wants to be his own attorney.

“As I have watched this case unfold over the last five months, everything I have heard that is negative is the result of other people speaking for me, and nobody can speak for me better than me,” Coltharp told the court.

He added, “I was there with what allegedly occurred, and so I know what the facts are and I want to see to that.”

While speaking in court, Coltharp made what could be considered an admission of guilt, as he discussed the evidence against him.

“There’s a lot of truth that has been presented in my discovery,” Coltharp said.

The judge interrupted him and said, “You just made an admission there,” to which Coltharp replied, “I understand that. I did just make an admission there. There’s a lot of truth in what’s in here, but there’s a lot of information that is false, also.”

Coltharp’s court-appointed attorney, Paul Frischknecht, was clearly frustrated with his client as he tried to keep him from representing himself at a trial set for July on child sex abuse and kidnapping charges.

“If one insists on digging their own grave,” Frischknecht said. “We’ve had that discussion, your honor. My client is firm on his feelings, and I’ve said what I’ve said to him, and he’s just heard basically the same thing from the court.”

Coltharp, of Spring City, was charged in one case in Sanpete County with sodomy on a child, a first-degree felony, and child bigamy, a second-degree felony. He was arrested on charges of child kidnapping, a first-degree felony, and obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony, in an additional case.

In fall 2017, police said Coltharp loaded a U-Haul in the middle of the night and vacated his Spring City house, taking his two sons and two daughter,s between the ages of 8 and 4, and the children’s grandparents to live in a makeshift compound constructed out of Conex storage containers in a remote area of northern Iron County, approximately a mile west of Lund.

A total of six children and four adults were living in the containers, which totaled approximately 800 square feet, according to police.

According to court records, Coltharp’s ex-wife called Coltharp a “doomsday prepper who believes that the world will soon come to an end.”

When authorities found the compound in December and arrested Samuel Warren Shaffer, an alleged cult member, Coltharp’s two girls were found hidden in a plastic 50-gallon water barrel that Shaffer had allegedly made them stay in for at least 24 hours, according to charging documents.

Shaffer’s own two children were found in an abandoned mobile home “in deplorable living conditions” and were in “poor health, with signs of dehydration and acting lethargic,” according to court records.

After a long discussion behind closed doors, when the prosecutor said he showed Coltharp new evidence in the case, Coltharp’s tone suddenly changed.

“It’s just from that cooperating witness,” said Sanpete County Attorney Kevin Daniels said. “What that cooperating witness would testify to, I’m not ready to divulge who that cooperating witness is, but it is somebody who is involved in the case.”

The information may come from fellow Knight of the Crystal Blade member Shaffer, who has already pleaded guilty to charges in Iron County, yet faces similar charges in Sanpete County.

The prosecutor said he believes Coltharp is rethinking a plea deal.

“Keep in mind, he is innocent until proven guilty,” Daniels said. “He hasn’t pled to anything, but if he is convicted at trial, I plan on seeking the harshest sentence possible.”

In the end, Coltharp agreed to keep his attorney on board until he has a chance to meet with the prosecutor over possible plea negotiations.

A new court date was set for May 30.

KSL 5 TV Live

Local News

In March, Amariah Jacobs was on a hike with her husband along the Oregon coast when she found a rar...

Paulina Aguilar, CNN

Preschool teacher finds rare fossil along Oregon coast

In March, Amariah Jacobs was on a hike with her husband along the Oregon coast when she found a rare fossil of an extinct animal.

3 hours ago

(Courtesy: Ogden Utah Fire Department) The aftermath of the fire...

Carlysle Price

Ogden mobile home fire claims lives of a cat and dog

A one-story mobile home caught fire Friday night near Wall Avenue, where four people and three pets were affected. 

4 hours ago

A man stands near what was discovered to be a well that opened up in a Spanish Fork man's Driveway....

Brianna Chavez

Spanish Fork homeowner finds old well under his driveway

After years of gradual change in one Spanish Fork homeowner's driveway, a well was discovered after part of the concrete caved in.

16 hours ago

Michael Cook, who was running for the Republican nomination for Spanish Fork's District 25 senate s...

Carlysle Price and Michael Houck, KSL TV

Former Senate candidate charged for refusing to leave a USPS while gathering signatures

Former Republican candidate Michael Cook is facing two charges after allegedly attempting to gather signatures in a federal building on March 29.

18 hours ago

FILE: A Summit County Sheriff's Office patrol vehicle. (KSL TV)...

Alexander Campbell

Multiple Summit County businesses affected by counterfeit scheme, one arrested in connection

After reports of businesses being passed counterfeit money, one man is arrested in Summit County and facing drug and forgery charges.

18 hours ago

Green grass and wildflowers grow as a cyclist rides on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail in the foothi...

Carter Williams

Salt Lake City hits 1st 80-degree day of year, ties 88-year-old record

Utah's capital tied an 88-year-old temperature record on Friday as the high temperature at Salt Lake City International Airport surpassed 80 degrees for the first time this year.

18 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Alleged cult leader, John Coltharp, appears in court