A Kearns man was ordered to stand trial on multiple assault, kidnapping and child abuse charges resulting from a November domestic dispute involving his wife and three children.

But felony sex abuse charges against him crumbled Tuesday because of a reluctant witness.Francisco Huitron, 45, attacked his estranged wife with a butcher knife Nov. 29 and ordered the three children in their Kearns home to watch as he beat her, according to testimony Tuesday in 3rd District Court.

Nina Huitron testified her husband had moved out of their home about two weeks earlier but came back that Saturday morning to pick up a table. Instead, he locked her in her bedroom and began swinging a butcher knife at her, accusing her of having a boyfriend, Nina Huitron testified.

The three children, ages 12, 11, and 5, rushed into the room, crying and screaming, she testified. When she told them to leave and call the police, Francisco Huitron ordered them to stay in the room or he'd kill her, Nina Huitron said.

"He told them, `Come and sit down now or I'll kill your mom,' " Nina Huitron said.

They children obeyed, sitting on the floor of the bedroom and watching as Francisco Huitron hit her several times in the face, she said.

"He told the kids he was going to kill me and then kill himself, and they were going to watch," she testified.

Francisco Huitron, a cook, began stabbing himself with the 9-inch butcher knife he'd brought from work, Nina Huitron testified, and she was finally able to escape from him and call 911.

Huitron fled the house and was arrested the same day. He was charged with one count of aggravated kidnapping, a first-degree felony, and aggravated assault, a third-degree felony, for the attack on Nina Huitron.

He was also charged with three counts of kidnapping, a second-degree felony, for ordering the children to stay in the room, and three counts of child abuse, also a third-degree felony, for assaulting their mother in front of them.

Judge Robert K. Hilder ordered Huitron bound over for trial on all charges except one kidnapping count. The 5-year-old boy is the son of Francisco and Nina Huitron, Hilder decided, and his father telling him not to leave a room does not rise to the level of kidnapping.

But the 11-year-old and 12-year-old girls are not his natural children and he never legally adopted them, the judge decided, so Francisco Huitron had no legal right to threaten to harm their mother to coerce them into staying in the bedroom.

After a second preliminary hearing held immediately afterward, five first-degree and second-degree felony charges of sodomy, sex abuse, and attempted rape of a child charges against Francisco Huitron were dismissed at the request of prosecutor Dane Nolan after his witness proved reluctant to say anything against the defendant.

Hilder agreed to Nolan's courtroom motion to dismiss five of the charges and reduce the sixth, aggravated sexual abuse of a child, from a first-degree to second-degree charge.

The witness described several incidents of Francisco Huitron making sexual advances toward her but shied away from providing details.

"I was a little surprised and disappointed," Nolan said of his witness. "She was real good when I interviewed her in my office. She's a real intelligent, real sweet kid.

"But sometimes when they get on the stand, they become reluctant to talk about sexual matters. It's embarrassing and intimidating to them," Nolan said.