16-Year-Old Girl Testifies Of Beating

Salt Lake Tribune/July 23, 1998
By Ray Rivera

Brigham City -- Her father told her she was "going to get 10 licks for every wrongdoing.'' Then, in a big red barn in Box Elder County, she said, he belt-whipped her.

She lost count, and perhaps consciousness, at 28 lashes across her back and thighs.

So testified a tearful 16-year-old girl during a preliminary hearing in 1st District Court here Wednesday. She wiped a tissue across her eyes as she sat in the witness chair facing her father, John Daniel Kingston.

It was the girl's first public appearance since capturing national media attention when she reluctantly told police that her father beat her for running away from a polygamous marriage to her uncle. The girl has been in protective custody with the state ever since.

``I remember him telling me . . . that before the night was over, I'd think twice before I ran away,'' she told prosecutor Jon Bunderson.

At the hearing's conclusion, Judge Ben Hadfield ordered Kingston, 43, to stand trial for second-degree felony child abuse. Kingston is scheduled to appear before Hadfield on Monday for arraignment. If convicted, Kingston could face up to 15 years in prison.

The hearing offered a rare glimpse into the secretive Kingston group, a 1,500-member polygamous sect that has an estimated $150 million business empire in Salt Lake County and in other parts of Utah and Nevada. John Daniel Kingston and his defense attorney, Carl E. Kingston, are cousins and prominent members in the group.

Former members say both men are polygamists.

The girl told police she had twice tried to leave the group so she could finish high school. She married her uncle, David O. Kingston, 32, the previous October, becoming his 15th bride in a union she said was arranged by her father.

(The Salt Lake Tribune is not naming the girl because of her age and because of the allegations of incest involved in the case.)

The first time the girl ran away, her father returned her to her uncle, who has not been charged. The second time, she sought refuge with her mother, Susan Nelson, in her old Sandy neighborhood. But Nelson telephoned John Daniel Kingston on the evening of May 22.

On Wednesday, the girl told a full courtroom that her father showed up at her mother's house at 11 p.m. He ordered her into his truck and they drove north, first dropping off two other relatives in Salt Lake City.

Then the father and daughter got on Interstate 15, traveling north toward the group's Washakie ranch near the Idaho border, a place former members say wayward wives are taken to be punished.

``I didn't know where we were going, but I kind of figured it out when we passed Ogden,'' the girl said.

Along the way, he purportedly grabbed her by the hair, pulled him toward her and hit her in the mouth and forehead.

``I could taste blood from my nose,'' she said.

After driving some 80 miles to the ranch near Plymouth in the dark, early-morning hours, her father ordered her into the barn. He told her to remove her jacket while he turned on the lights and removed his belt. That's when the beating began, she said. At some point, she remembered the lights flickering off.

Kingston stopped to turn the lights back on, and the beating resumed.

``He said, `I don't want you to leave, but if you do, you can't come back,' '' she quoted him as saying.

The girl suffered a swollen nose, cut lip and deep bruises and welts on her arms, back, buttocks and legs. Photos of the bruises were presented as evidence. Earlier police reports that she had a broken nose turned out to be a tissue shadow in the X-rays, prosecutor Bunderson said.

The girl said she never remembered leaving the barn. She woke up in the morning on a couch in the living room of the nearby home of Margaret Larsen, who former members say is one of John Daniel Kingston's 20-plus wives.

The next day, the girl walked two hours on a dirt road to Tri Valley Chevron and dialed 911, she testified.

During his cross-examination, attorney Carl Kingston attempted to paint a picture of a young girl out of control who worried her parents by staying out all night, including the night before the beating.

He asked the girl about various trysts with other men. She admitted spending the night with one man in a motel, where they consumed drugs and alcohol. However, the girl denied she had been struck by anyone but her father.

In binding Kingston over for trial, Judge Hadfield rejected attorney Kingston's claim that the offense did not qualify as a second-degree felony but as a lesser Class A misdemeanor.

``If a parent slaps a child and the next week slaps him again, the child might have two bruises, but is the parent guilty of a second-degree felony? I would submit no,'' Carl Kingston argued.

Hadfield responded that the alleged beating amounted to physical torture.

``It would seem to the court that this was a methodical inflicting of continuous pain and suffering,'' he said.

About a dozen members of Tapestry of Polygamy, a support group for former wives of polygamy, attended the hearing.

``We wanted to show this young girl that we are here to support her,'' said a group founder, Rowenna Erickson, who says she was a former wife in the Kingston group.

``She has displayed profound courage in coming out like this,'' Erickson said of the girl.

Members of the group have questioned whether Carl Kingston has a conflict of interest in defending the girl's father. The girl told investigators that she had worked for Carl Kingston as a receptionist in his Salt Lake law office. In addition, the attorney purportedly performed a secret ceremony in which his own daughter became the third wife of David Kingston, the man the 16-year-old girl had run away from.

Carl Kingston has refused to discuss the issue.

Meantime, the Utah Division of Child and Family Services has set up a trust fund to help pay the girl's educational expenses. Anyone wanting to contribute should call the agency's office in Brigham City at (435) 734-4075.

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