Kingston daughter fears return to mother

Deseret Morning News/June 24, 2005
By Linda Thomson with Leigh Dethman

The 17-year-old daughter of polygamist John Daniel Kingston and Heidi Mattingly says she is frightened that a judge might remove her from foster care and send her home to her mother.

"I have no support except for my lawyer and caseworker," the girl told the Deseret Morning News. "I want my family to back off. I want the judge to listen. I want him to care, to care about what he's sending the kids back to."

Although the girl has been identified by other news media, the Deseret Morning News has a policy of not identifying sexual abuse victims.

A hearing is scheduled for June 28 before 3rd District Juvenile Judge Andrew Valdez, who will review the status of the girl and some of her siblings.

Meanwhile, the Utah Attorney General's Office filed a motion Thursday requesting that Valdez recuse himself from the case.

Valdez's son, Tito, was arrested in March and and cited with disorderly conduct, a class C misdemeanor, with regard to a protest outside the courthouse. The Attorney General's Office is concerned about a possible conflict of interest because witnesses in that case also are members of the Kingston clan.

Andrew Valdez cannot comment about the Kingston situation because Utah judges are forbidden to discuss pending cases.

The 17-year-old contacted the Deseret Morning News to express her fears about possibly being sent back to live with her mother and her frustration about what she sees as having little or no say in what happens to her.

It is highly unusual for a child in state custody to seek out the media.

Carol Sisco, spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services, said the girl wanted to speak publicly because she felt her side hadn't been told.

"We thought it was important for someone who has lived in a closed society who couldn't speak up to do that. We also wanted to ascertain that it was in her best interests, and we checked with her therapist. Meanwhile, she went ahead and contacted the media. I can't say we're fully supportive of everything she's going to say because we don't know what she's going to say.

"But it's important to her to say what's happened in her life," Sisco said.

In addition to the interview, the girl also released a statement Thursday to the Deseret Morning News and KSL-TV that states: "As a young girl in this polygamous society, I was subjected to neglect, emotional, physical and sexual abuse. The state has entered my life a few times, and each time that we were taken, my family was able to manipulate the situation and get us home."

The girl said that state officials previously believed that her father had changed "his abusive ways," but she said once she returned home, her father "would take off the mask and return to his abusive ways."

The girl and a sister, 14, were removed from their mother's home in 2004 after a dispute with their mother and father about the girls getting their ears pierced.

Since then, the judge has ruled that the children in the home were abused and neglected.

Court documents state that Mattingly hit some children in the face until they bled, hit them on the bottom or arm, hit one with a broom, was emotionally abusive and kept a dirty house. Court documents also state John Daniel Kingston beat Mattingly and repeatedly slapped and hit various children on numerous occasions.

The 14-year-old has been permanently placed with relatives, an infant girl is with Mattingly and the other nine children are in foster care.

Recently, Valdez directed the Department of Children and Family Services to work on reunifying children with Mattingly, provided she complies with court-ordered directives such as getting therapy and following a no-contact order involving Kingston.

The 17-year-old expressed fears about how much state officials can protect her.

"In the past, they've always said, 'This is going to happen,' but when we got to court, the opposite happens," the girl said. "They're saying I should be safe, but they're not putting any backbone in it.

"Before a year ago, I didn't think I was abused. I thought I had it good in the Order, and the rest of the world was abused. Now that I'm out in the world, I realize I was abused," she said.

The Order refers to the polygamist clan associated with the Latter Day Church of Christ, to which the Kingstons belong.

John Daniel Kingston has repeatedly said he loves his children and expressed frustration with the system, saying that DCFS and the state's Guardian ad Litem office are more concerned with furthering their own agenda than looking out for the children. Phone calls to his lawyer were not returned Thursday.

Mattingly also has repeatedly said she loves her children and wants them home, suggesting the case is being pursued largely because of her religious beliefs. Mattingly was unavailable for comment Thursday evening.

Mattingly's lawyer, Gary Bell, told KSL-TV it's important to Mattingly to have all her children come home, but she understands that the 17-year-old has chosen not to return.

The 17-year-old had four or five visits with her mother until the middle of May, but the girl said that soured after other members of the polygamist group began to make her feel uncomfortable. She asked to have the visits stopped.

"I stopped going. I didn't like the way my mom treated me and the other Order members treated me. I knew it would only get worse after the case was closed," she said.

The girl said her mother didn't do anything wrong on visits, but other members of the group did. "They would try to set me up seeing people I didn't feel comfortable around. They started coaching me on stuff, on things I should say to the judge. I started having problems with them."

She said she also is worried about her brothers and sisters.

"I think some of the kids want to go home, and they should get what they want. Some are kind of in question, and the judge should look at each kid individually and at their needs individually. I don't think they should look at them as a whole."

What would she like for herself?

"For my life, I would like to get adopted in the home I'm staying in and pursue criminology and become an investigator in child abuse. I want to set up a safe house to take in polygamy children," she said.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.