West Jordan, Utah -- A prominent polygamist and his wife have surrendered their parental rights to two teenage daughters whose abuse allegations triggered a lengthy custody battle with the state.
The girls, ages 17 and 14, are currently in foster care and have expressed a desire to be adopted.
Their parents, John Daniel Kingston and Heidi Mattingly, signed orders relinquishing their rights to the teens Friday. The couple has nine other children, all of whom are in Mattingly's custody.
"There has been a significant deterioration of the parent-child relationship with these girls," Kristin Brewer, a court-appointed advocate for the teens, told the 3rd District juvenile court. "This enables everyone to move on and not go through another trial."
Kingston and Mattingly, who have fought to retain their rights to their children since 2004, agreed.
"Our family believes in the principle of personal choice," said Kingston, who is believed to have 14 wives with more than 100 children. He is under a no-contact order and cannot see any of his children with Mattingly.
After Friday's hearing, Mattingly said the decision to give up her two eldest daughters left her feeling "like we've had two deaths in the family." But, she said, "it's better to let them move on."
Kingston and Mattingly are members of a secretive sect of Utah polygamists that was founded by Kingston's relatives. The group has an estimated 1,200 members and runs a $150 million business empire that includes markets, dairies and mines throughout Utah.
Critics contend the sect teaches and promotes sexual abuse of young girls through illegal marriages, incest and polygamy. Members of the group contend they live a religious and lawful existence.
Mattingly was ordered by the court to move away from the group after the custody dispute with state child protection service began in February 2004.
The two teenage girls had called police, saying their father threatened them with violence after they got their ears pierced. Mattingly also had been accused of neglecting her children by not providing enough supervision or a clean home.
All but one of the couple's children - an infant whom Mattingly gave birth to during the more than 18 months of proceedings - were put in temporary state custody. The children have since been returned to Mattingly, except for the two oldest girls.