John Daniel Kingston regularly subjected two of his teenage daughters to abuse and neglect, and the girls’ mother — Heidi Foster, one of Kingston’s estimated 14 wives — failed to protect them, a juvenile judge ruled Thursday.
“No child deserves to be beaten or threatened with being beaten, and when they do, they deserve the help of our court,” said 3rd District Judge Andrew Valdez.
Valdez based his decision on the girls’ testimony coupled with “other voices,” including that of half sibling Mary Ann Kingston, who was belt-whipped by Kingston in 1998.
Valdez said he found the younger teen’s accounts of abuse to be “courageous and credible,” while the older girl seemed to be protecting her family. The girls, ages 13 and 15, have been in state custody since mid-February, when they said their father threatened to beat them after they got their ears pierced.
Valdez ordered the girls to remain out of their home: The younger girl will remain with her aunt and uncle, and the older teen will be placed in a high-level foster home, with extended visits at home.
The younger girl will see her mother during counseling sessions and have supervised visits with her siblings. Both are barred from contact with their father. The couple’s other eight children will remain with Foster.
Kingston has about 120 children from polygamous relationships with more than a dozen women.
Valdez allowed both girls to address their parents after his ruling.
The older teen, weeping, thanked her parents “for loving me. You guys are the best parents in the world, and having one of you gone is like having an arm gone or my brain gone.”
The younger girl told her mother she loved her and missed her. “I’m sorry that you had to go through this,” she said.
Addressing her father, she said: “I’m sorry you had to go through this, too, Dad . . . Daniel.”
That prompted Valdez to tell her, “Call him Dad. You have that right.”
In his ruling, Valdez ordered that the last names of all 10 children be legally changed to Kingston, dropping Foster, a fake last name sometimes used by their father. The judge gave the couple until June 11 to request new birth certificates.
“The name is Kingston, sir, and these kids have a right to their true name,” Valdez told Kingston, adding that bearing their father’s name would ensure their inheritance rights.
He also ordered:
• Psychological evaluations of Kingston and Foster;
• Kingston to fill out a child support worksheet to determine what financial aid Foster and her children should receive;
• Mental and developmental assessments of the couples’ eight other children.
As far as court testimony about polygamy, incest, bigamy and adultery, Valdez said those were allegations to be address by another court at another time.
Daniel Irvin, Kingston’s defense attorney, had characterized the case as about a “stupid pair of earrings, kids who want one thing and parents who want another” in his closing arguments. If this were any other father, the case wouldn’t have made it to court, “But it’s John Daniel Kingston,” he said.
Irvin argued the physical abuse described during the trial occurred several years ago, before the Mary Ann Kingston case, when a court ordered his client not to physically discipline his children. But Thursday, the younger girl recounted two instances last year when she was spanked or thrown down the stairs by her father.
Irvin said the girl’s testimony was “all over the place” and that she admitted lying to protect people she liked while also lying to hurt those she didn’t.
Mark Hansen, Foster’s attorney, said Kingston’s actions fall within a Utah law allowing corporal punishment.
But attorney Kristen Brewer, director of the Guardian Ad Litem’s office, described the 13-year-old as “a battered child” and the older teen as in a “precarious position” because of her family loyalty and experiences with the state system.
“She knows the drill,” Brewer said of the 15-year-old, who ran away from home before and has been in state custody several other times. “You go out for a while and then you go back, and there are repercussions.”
She said that 54 months of attention from the Division of Child and Family Services, dating back to 1994, had failed to resolve the squalor and neglect in Foster’s home.
And when her children were abused, Foster stood by.
“She was right there,” Brewer said. “Sometimes she cries because she sees her kids getting beaten and she can’t do anything.”
Kingston subjected his children to abandonment and illegal behavior, Brewer said, noting the children are aware of his relationships with 14 women, “three of whom are his half sisters.”
Hansen, Foster’s attorney, said he would explore an appeal. Irvin, Kingston’s attorney, said his client would focus now on healing and reuniting his family.