SALT LAKE CITY — Polygamist John Daniel Kingston and Heidi Mattingly on Friday surrendered their parental rights to two teenage daughters whose complaints of abuse triggered a lengthy custody battle between the family and state officials.
The girls, ages 17 and 14, are two of 11 children shared by Kingston and Mattingly. All but these two are in Mattingly’s custody.
The girls are currently in foster care and have expressed a desire to be adopted.
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“There has been a significant deterioration of the parent-child relationship with these girls,” Kristin Brewer, a court-appointed advocate for the children, said in 3rd District juvenile court Friday. “This enables everyone to move on and not go through another trial.”
Kingston and Mattingly, who have fought to retain their rights to parent their children since 2004, agreed and immediately signed orders relinquishing their rights.
“Our family believes in the principle of personal choice,” said Kingston, who remains under a no-contact order and cannot see any of his children with Mattingly. “I want to give the girls first and foremost their freedom of choice and wish the girls well.”
Mattingly said she didn’t know if her two eldest daughters fully understood all that had happened to them, but thought the decision was best for everyone involved.
“They need some finality. I just think it’s better to let them move on,” she said. “I just hope they listen to their hearts and choose the best path in their lives.”
Kingston and Mattingly are members of a secretive sect of Utah polygamists who live near Salt Lake City and was founded by Kingston’s relatives. The group has an estimated 1,200 members and runs a $150 million business empire that includes pawn shops, markets, restaurant supply stores, 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 in a cooperative clan that takes care of its own.
Mattingly was order by the court to move away from the group after the custody dispute began in February 2004.
The tussle with state child protection attorneys began when the two oldest daughters got their ears pierced against the wishes of their father. They fled their father’s office in tears and told authorities an angry Kingston had threatened them with violence.
All but one of the couple’s children – an infant whom Mattingly gave birth to during the more than 18 months of proceedings – were eventually put in temporary state custody but have since been returned to Mattingly, except for the two girls.