Parental Kidnapping in Utah

A father of four in Utah was arrested for parental kidnapping after being on the run with his four children for over two months.

Doomsday prepper

33 year old John Coltharp, a doomsday prepper belonging to a new religious group named Knights of the Crystal Blade was arrested for kidnapping along with his accomplice and leader of the group, 34 year old Samuel Shaffer. Some in the community questioned Coltharp’s kidnapping charges since the children kidnapped were his own and with him for over two months before authorities got involved.

The delay to search

The mother of the children, 28 year old Micha Soble of Springville, Utah started the public search for her children with posts to her personal social media account as well as public yard sale sites throughout Utah over two months after her children were abducted by their father. When questioned as to why she waited so long to find them, she blamed the Utah Court system.

Custody order takes time

In fear of losing her children, Soble asked the 4th District Judge Pullan to grant her a temporary restraining order. Judge Pullan denied the request in September after which Coltharp disappeared with all four children, ages ranging from 4 to 8 years old. Over the course of the divorce and custody hearings, Soble remained in the dark as to where her children were. Finally, near the end of November, Judge Pullan granted the mother full custody and the search for the Coltharp children began.

Parental kidnapping

The Coltharp children were all found after a lengthy search from law enforcement and volunteers, with two of the children hospitalized from exposure to the cold and weather. In this case, the children were in immediate danger and parental kidnapping charges seemed fitting. In many other cases however, Utah residents are confused as to how a parent can be charged with parental kidnapping and not just custodial interference.

Custodial interference

Utah Code 76-5-303 states “A person who is entitled to custody of a child is guilty of custodial interference [a class B misdemeanor] if, during a period of time when another person is entitled to visitation of the child, the person takes, entices, conceals, detains, or withholds the child from the person entitled to visitation of the child, with the intent to interfere with the visitation of the child.” Or “A person who is entitled to visitation of a child is guilty of custodial interference if, during a period of time when the person is not entitled to visitation of the child, the person takes, entices, conceals, detains, or withholds the child from a person who is entitled to custody of the child, with the intent to interfere with the custody of the child.” In the case of the Coltharp children, their father was not granted custody or visitation. His removal of the children and failure to return then then constituted kidnapping.

Child kidnapping by a parent

Utah Code 76-5-301.1 states that “an actor [or parent without any parental rights] commits child kidnapping if the actor intentionally or knowingly, without authority of law, and by any means and in any manner, seizes, confines, detains, or transports a child under the age of 14 without the consent of the victim’s parent or guardian, or the consent of a person acting in loco parentis.” Child kidnapping is considered a first degree felony in the state of Utah and punishable by 15 years to life in prison. It is important for divorced parents to fully understand their court ordered arrangements to ensure they are staying within the law regarding their divorce and custody ruling.


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