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Girls found in Amber Alert were hidden in 50-gallon water barrels in subfreezing temps

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Girls found in Amber Alert were hidden in 50-gallon water barrels in subfreezing temps (AMBER Alert)

IRON COUNTY, Utah (KUTV) - Two girls were rescued Monday night after officials say they were discovered in subfreezing temps at the bottom of water barrels.

One of the girls was flown to Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City because of her medical condition.

It's one of many disturbing new details KUTV learned from the Iron County Sheriff's Office.

According to officials, the suspect, Samuel Shaffer hid the missing girls in 50-gallon water barrels, hoping to hide them from law enforcement.

Police believe the girls were in the barrels for about 24 hours without food, water or proper clothing for subfreezing temperatures.

So how did the girls end up in the barrels? Sheriffs have provided a detailed synopsis of what happened in the days leading up to the Amber Alert.

On December 1, the girl's biological mother, Micha Coltharp, provided court records to Iron County Sheriff's about her four children, believing they were somewhere near the Beryl Junction, about 30 miles west of Cedar City.

Deputies responded to the area but were unable to locate the children.

During the evening of December 3, Sheriffs got a tip that Keith and Catherine Coltharp were in a remote area on Iron County, about one mile west of Lund Utah.

Police responded, and found a vehicle of interest at a compound of shipping containers.

Police say people were living in the compound of shipping containers.

On Monday, December 4, at 11:15 a.m. police found two of the children on the court order, Seth and William Coltharp, who were there with Catherine Coltharp.

Both boys were taken into custody and later the hospital around 11:45 a.m.

That's when law enforcement learned Samuel Shaffer was last seen with Dina and Hattie Coltharp, as well as his two biological children, Lily Shafer, age 7, and Samantha Shaffer, age 5.

Police believed Samuel Shaffer left the compound with the four girls around 4:00 p.m. on Sunday evening.

Shaffer is believed to have spent the night with all four girls in a tent near the compound.

That's when police contacted Southern Utah University to aid in finding the girls via helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.

At 3:00 p.m. Monday, Sheriffs issued the Amber Alert.

Around 5:15 p.m. a person who heard the Amber Alert called authorities to report a white man walking alone several miles west of the compound. Cops responded and arrested Samuel Shaffer without incident.

During the arrest, Shaffer provided a vague description of where the missing girls might be located.

Two girls, Lily Shaffer and Hattie Coltharp, were found in two 50-gallon plastic water barrels, about 1000 yards south of the Coltharp compound. Shaffer told police he was trying to hide the girls from law enforcement.

Responders say the girls spent about 24 hours inside the barrels in subfreezing temperatures. They were not dressed for the cold and had no access to food or water, but Shaffer did tell police he left a gun near the barrels.

Shaffer initially refused to tell police where the other two missing girls, Samantha Shaffer and Dinah Coltharp, were located.

About an hour later, Samantha and Dinah were found in an abandoned single-wide mobile home in poor health.

All four girls were taken by ambulance to a hospital in Cedar City to receive emergency medical care.

The youngest child, Samantha Shaffer was life-flighted to Primary Children's Hospital because of her condition.

Her current condition is unknown at this time.

The other three girls have all been released from the hospital.

It's believed Samuel Shaffer belonged to a doomsday religious cult called The Knights of the Crystal Blade.