A course of action: Heidi Mattingly Foster must convince the judge she is a good mother
First step: Write a letter assuring them she will keep them safe from any harm and promising to be a better parent.
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A therapist working with two of Mattingly Foster’s 11 children suggested the letter as way to “start the process” during a court hearing Tuesday.
Rob Butters, who also supervises counselors working with five other siblings, told 3rd District Juvenile Judge Andrew Valdez that the children have expressed fears about their safety since allegations of kidnapping and murder plots surfaced two weeks ago.
At that hearing, Valdez cut off Mattingly Foster’s visits with her children after her 16-year-old daughter testified she, a half-sister, an uncle and other relatives had talked about staging an abduction, shooting people involved in the case or bombing the courthouse.
The girl at one point described the threats as “just ideas,” but state officials took them seriously, beefing up security at the children’s foster homes, the judge’s home and the courthouse.
Kingston said the state created the conspiracy allegations to further its efforts to tear his family apart, something he hoped to show in court until Valdez narrowed the scope of Tuesday’s hearing.
“The people that know us know we are very peaceful people,” he said outside the courthouse.
Cheryl Nelson, 19, identified as one of the plotters, said she “never had any intention of doing those things.”
Ethan Tucker, 26, Kingston’s half-brother whom state attorneys insinuated was part of the plot, said he took pictures of buildings near the courthouse twice for a photography class at Salt Lake Community College. He said he was astonished by later media reports of the incidents, one of which state officials described as an attempt to set up surveillance equipment.
“I was sick about it,” Tucker said. “I wanted to set the record straight, have a way to tell people what really happened. I felt I didn’t have any way to do it.”
He met on Dec. 8 with two state investigators to offer his explanation but said they “had no interest in what went on, just in supporting their story of threats against the judge.”
Both investigators, Ron Barton and Jessica Eldredge, declined comment.
Real or not, Butters said this and other allegations have scared Mattingly Foster’s children. He said their fears have come out in drawings, nightmares and reports from their foster parents. Butters also said the children are afraid of repercussions if they say anything bad about their parents.
For now, restarting the visits would be more “fearful than productive,” Butters said, and such a move needs to be based on Mattingly Foster’s progress.
Valdez agreed to let Butters decide how, when and where supervised visits between Mattingly Foster and the children will occur. He also gave the YWCA until March 1 to start a counseling group for Mattingly Foster that includes women who have lived in polygamous relationships, which he first requested in December.
The judge reluctantly agreed to let Russ Pietryga withdraw as Mattingly Foster’s counsel. He appointed attorney Jeffrey J. Noland to take over, the third attorney to assist Mattingly Foster in the case.
Pietryga said there had been a “complete breakdown in communication” and Mattingly Foster no longer followed his advice if she disagreed with him, instead filing court motions on her own. He also said continuing to represent her might require him to violate ethical standards.
“I’m not someone’s stooge who is going to be used that way,” Pietryga told Valdez.
Mattingly Foster had asked Valdez on Feb. 11 to give Pietryga additional help or appoint a new lawyer for her because he was not providing her with court documents and was inaccurately presenting her views on some issues.