One man has either helped lift or added to the shroud of mystery surrounding Kays Cross.
Merlin Kingston, who says he helped build the stone and mortar cross in the summer of 1946, met with the Kaysville-Layton Historical Society in February "to set the record straight," according to a source who asked not to be identified.The 20-foot-high cross, long the subject of eerie legends, was built as a monument to a religious zealot who passed through northern Utah in 1946, Kingston told the society.
An explosion destroyed the structure this past Feb 15. Police have made no arrests and are awaiting an explosives analysis from a federal laboratory.
Roselyn W. Slade, a member of the society, confirmed the early February meeting with Kingston had taken place and said the details of his conversation provided by the source to The Deseret News are correct.
Other than confirming the details of the conversation - which was tape-recorded - Slade said she could not elaborate on the meeting.
"He gave us the information with the understanding we wouldn't talk about it," she said.
Kingston was out of town and could not be reached for comment, said Chris Grundvig, who manages a farm for Kingston in Woods Cross.
Kingston told the group he met the religious man, named Krishna Pencovick, through his brother, who heard Pencovick's dynamic preaching while he was in the Army.
The brothers invited Pencovick to speak during the spring of 1946 to large groups of people who gathered in a hollow where Kays Cross was later built.
Pencovick was bearded, wore long robes and was a persuasive orator, Kingston told the group.
Kingston and others built the cross using Kingston's truck to haul rocks and mortar to the secluded hollow. They fashioned it after plans drawn by Pencovick, he said.
A large "K" at the top of the cross stood for "Kingdom," a reference Pencovick often used in his preaching. Indentations on the cross's sidearms were to be covered with colored glass and hold scriptures, Kingston said.
Pencovick left the area before the cross was finished. He was later murdered in 1948 in Southern California, Kingston said.
Kingston's explanation contradicts theories held by longtime area residents who say the cross was built as a monument to a man named Kingston - apparently not Merlin Kingston - who reportedly led a fundamentalist group that practiced polygamy. The group, according to residents, moved to Kaysville in the 1940s.
"No one thinks (the polygamist-leader Kingston) actually ever lived here, but the group must have thought highly of him and erected the structure in his honor," Slade wrote to a man inquiring about the cross in 1986.
The society and Shirley Parks, a woman who also heard Kingston in February, have not confirmed his explanation, Slade said.
Parks, a Layton resident interested in the cross, arranged the meeting with Kingston, the source said. Parks refused to talk to The Deseret News.