Polygamist John Daniel Kingston abused and neglected two of his teenage daughters, a judge ruled Thursday.
Third District Judge Andrew Valdez said Kingston displayed a pattern of neglect and abuse in the past decade, and that the girls' mother, Heidi Foster, failed to protect them from that abuse.
"No child deserves to be beaten or threatened to be beaten," Valdez said.
Custody and possible living arrangements for the two girls, ages 15 and 13, will be decided in a July 7 hearing.
Until then, the 13-year-old will live in the temporary custody of an uncle and aunt who are not members of "The Order," the polygamous clan to which the Kingstons belong. The 15-year-old girl will live in a foster-care facility.
Kingston was visibly upset after the hearing.
"I'm disappointed," Kingston said.
His attorney agreed.
"We're disappointed with the outcome, but the focus now is reunification of the family," said Daniel Irvin, Kingston's lead defense attorney. "If this was John Smith or John Christiansen, we wouldn't be here. But it's John Daniel Kingston."
The two teens fled their home after allegedly telling police they feared becoming the next victims of physical abuse by their father. Kingston became angry with the pair after they got their ears pierced without his permission.
Valdez ordered that Kingston have no contact with the girls until the July hearing. The 13-year-old will live with Justin Mattingly, Foster's brother, and Shawna Blacksher. The couple wants permanent custody of the girl, said Kristin Brewer of the Guardian ad Litem's Office.
The 15-year-old girl will live in a therapeutic foster-care facility. The judge allowed extended visits with her mother and siblings in the family home. The girl has repeatedly testified that she wants to be reunited with her family.
"Thank you for loving me," the girl told her parents. "I try to imagine what life I would have had without you guys. You guys are the best parents ever."
Valdez gave Kingston one week to change the girls' birth certificates to reflect their real last name Kingston, not Foster. He said that by using fake names, the girls could be denied their rights of inheritance.
"The name is Kingston, sir, and they have a right to their own names," Valdez said. "Change the name to what it is."
If Kingston fails to get the names officially changed, Valdez said he would hold Kingston in contempt and send him to jail.
Brewer said she was worried about possible witness tampering after an incident involving the 13-year-old girl and three of Kingston's other daughters from other wives.
West Valley Police Capt. Craig Black said three adult daughters of Kingston went to Shawna Blacksher's house on May 28 about 9:30 p.m. The women claimed they were worried about the welfare of their young sister who was living at the house, he said.
Blacksher, who has a restraining order against Kingston, would not allow the women in the house, Black said.
In court Thursday, Cheryl Nelson testified that she could smell drugs inside the home. After the women left, they went to a nearby phone and called police. Likewise, Blacksher called police from her house after the women had left.
Nelson said in court that she does not know what drugs or cigarettes smell like.
When officers arrived to sort out the situation, Blacksher told them she thought Kingston had sent his daughters to her house as a way of manipulating the protective order, Black said.
The officers checked the house to make sure the young girl was OK. They found no evidence of any drug use inside, Black said.
Blacksher told the officers she thought it would be best if the three women did not have contact with their sister until the court case was resolved, Black said. The sisters then left the house without incident.Comment on this story
No arrests were made and Black said his office had not been contacted about doing any follow-up investigations for possible witness tampering.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 group operates a $150 million business empire in six Western states with companies that include pawn shops, restaurant supply stores, dairies and mines.
Contributing: Pat Reavy, Deseret Morning News; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org