2 Kingston girls tell of abuse

Deseret Morning News/May 26, 2004
By Leigh Dethman

Details of an abusive, dirty and neglected Kingston home surfaced Tuesday as transcripts of the testimony of two of polygamist John Daniel Kingston's teenage daughters were released.

According to testimony from his 13-year-old daughter, Kingston beat her, her mother and her siblings and forced his children to eat rotten food he dug out of the garbage, drink rotten milk and worse.

"He's . . . let them throw up and (made) them drink it," the girl said. "Arrest my dad and have him be in jail forever, or else do to him what he's done to us."

Kingston was in 3rd District Court on Tuesday with one of his wives, Heidi Foster, for a third day of child abuse and neglect hearings. The next hearing is scheduled for June 3.

In her testimony, the 13-year-old alleges that when she was just 4 or 5, Kingston hit her in the face for neglecting to say "hi" to his mother. And on one occasion, Kingston hit his children one at a time with a 2-by-4, the girl said.

According to testimony, Kingston once grabbed a 5-year-old son by the hair and slapped the boy for scratching the family's van. When asked what happened to the boy's face, the girl responded, "(It) got bruised for a while."

On another occasion, the 13-year-old testified, Kingston slapped her sister, resulting in a bloody nose and a blood-smeared face.

Kingston allegedly dragged Foster, who was pregnant, down a set of stairs by her hair, according to the 13-year-old. When confronted about the incident in February, the girl said Kingston told her, "Oh, are you sure it wasn't a dream?" The girl later testified she had seen Kingston hit Foster with an open hand.

The girl also testified Kingston regularly slaps children when they are crying, saying, "Quit crying or I'm going to do it again."

In a complaint filed by the Guardian ad Litem's Office, the state alleges Kingston abused his two teens and that Foster failed to protect the girls from that abuse.

After the Deseret Morning News requested transcripts of 13 hours of testimony of Kingston's two daughters, ages 15 and 13, they were made available to media outlets Tuesday. The transcripts describe several instances of alleged abuse and neglect within the Kingston home.

Both Kingston and his attorney, Daniel Irvin, claim the Guardian ad Litem's Office (GAL) is using the case as "a fishing expedition" for information about Kingston's polygamous clan.

"This is more of a case of who, not what, happened," Irvin said.

Kingston agreed, adding that the Guardian ad Litem's Office is not interested in protecting the welfare of his two teenage daughters.

"The GAL has turned this into a witch hunt because of who is involved," Kingston said. "Their focus has been on trying to bring in allegations of polygamy rather than prove abuse."

Three activist groups are demanding the state charge Kingston with bigamy and prosecute him like convicted bigamist Tom Green.

The state could attempt to take away the estimated 106 children Kingston has fathered with 14 different wives if Judge Andrew Valdez decides Kingston abused and neglected the two teenage girls.

According to state law, a neglected child is one who has been subject to mistreatment or abuse. The law also defines a neglected child as one "who is at risk of being neglected or abused . . . because another minor in the same home is a neglected or abused child."

The definition of "home" is the key because Kingston lives in multiple homes with his wives. The state could argue that, technically, all 106 children are in the same "home" and take away Kingston's custodial rights.

In court Tuesday, Kristin Brewer, director of the Guardian ad Litem's Office, said Kingston is a caregiver in at least 14 different homes, meaning all of his children could be considered siblings at risk.

Irvin disagreed.

"Opening the door to the caregiver and being able to confer abuse and neglect without any other evidence is a slippery slope," Irvin said. "Who's safe? The only one safe is a traditional husband and wife."

Despite the allegations of abuse against her father, the 13-year-old was adamant that the children should be able to stay in their home with Foster.

"Don't take them away," the 13-year-old testified. "Just take my dad away. Either you can get 100 kids or get one guy. Which one is easier? I think it's right to take my dad instead . . . of making the kids and the moms suffer."

The girls first called police on Feb. 15 after Kingston allegedly threatened them for piercing their ears. In court Tuesday, Kingston said, "We believe we should keep our bodies complete. If the Lord wanted us to have holes in our ears, he would have put them there."

In her videotaped testimony, the 13-year-old girl described how men in "The Order" the polygamous clan of which Kingston is a member - control their children.

"They hit them and they beat them up and they yell at them (that) they're worthless and they tell them, 'You're not worth anything,' and they tell them they hate them."

Irvin played down the 13-year-old girl's testimony, claiming it was "coached." In his opening statement, he said the girl had been out of her home for 90 days when questioned, and she could have been influenced by others outside the family.

The Kingstons are members of the Latter-day Church of God, or The Order, which reportedly has some 1,200 members and professes polygamy as part of its religious beliefs.

The Kingstons operate a $150 million business empire in six Western states with companies that include pawn shops, restaurant supply stores, dairies and mines.

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