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FBI: 8 victims of polygamist group ran away from State custody in Arizona, found in Washington state

Federal affidavit details conversations they reportedly had with leader while he was behind bars

WASHINGTON — Eight young women who officials say ran away from their group home in the Valley have now been found more than a thousand miles away. 

Federal investigators say the girls, ages 11 to 16, were part of a polygamist group and were taken by others still in the group. The FBI says they are victims of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

The underage girls were wives of the group's leader Samuel Bateman, a newly released affidavit detailing the FBI investigation said. A self-proclaimed prophet that reportedly had dozens of followers and more than 20 wives, many of whom were minors.

Bateman is currently being held in Florence after police say he was transporting three underage girls in the back of an unsecured box trailer in Flagstaff back in August.

They were in the custody of the Arizona Department of Child Safety and were living at group homes in Phoenix since September. They ran away from the group home last week with the help of three suspects also identified as Bateman's wives.

Investigators learned the girls were contacting the suspects through email during the search of the home, the released document said. One of their hand-written journal entries said, "Today is the day we go home."

The night the girls left, Bateman called two of them while he was still in custody to talk about the situation. The report said voices of the young girls could be heard in the background. 

The girls reportedly drove all the way to Spokane, Washington and rented an Airbnb to stay in, which is how authorities discovered their location. 

Investigators learned the credit card used for the Airbnb belonged to a member of the group. When the Spokane County Sheriff's arrived at the home, they saw a car leave. 

A deputy later pulled the vehicle over where he saw Moretta Johnson, 19, driving the car with all eight minors inside. The document said Johnson married Bateman when she was underaged.

The Department of Child Safety said they cannot comment on this case or where the young girls are now due to confidentiality laws.

Johnson, along with Naomi Bistline and Donnae Barlow, have been charged with kidnapping and obstructing a criminal investigation.

Federal investigators also detailed Bateman's past alleged crimes. While he is not currently charged with sexual abuse, the document said Bateman and his followers, "have engaged in the transportation of minors in interstate commerce to engage in criminal sexual activity, and travel in interstate commerce to engage in illicit sexual conduct with minors."

Some of the allegations include Bateman reportedly making sexual advances toward his own daughter by bribing her with potato chips and money. It goes on to say Bateman told his daughter, "he felt like she was his wife." His daughter is believed to be about 14 at that time.

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