SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — State child welfare authorities on Tuesday removed eight children from a family belonging to Utah’s polygamist Kingston clan.
The children were taken from the family of John Daniel Kingston and Heidi Mattingly. Kingston was ordered earlier this year to pay $3,100 a month in family support for the children he has with Mattingly.
The support was ordered as part of a case in which both Kingston and Mattingly were accused of child abuse and neglect. The couple have 11 children, including two teen girls who have already been removed from the home.
The state did not take the couple’s youngest child, a 3-month-old girl, who will remain with Mattingly.
The children were in the courthouse during Tuesday’s review hearing but not in the courtroom. Immediately after the hearing — where Judge Andrew Valdez ordered them removed — seven of the children were taken to a shelter for children from abusive homes.
The eighth child, a 15-year-old boy, was considered a flight risk and authorities were considering other options for him.
Carol Sisco, spokeswoman for the state’s Division of Child and Family Services, refused comment on the case.
At issue Tuesday was a petition filed by the Guardian ad Litem’s office — an independent agency that represents children in court — alleging abuse, neglect and efforts by the Kingstons to block access to the children by state case workers.
Mattingly has been investigated by DCFS at least three times since 1994, and found each time to have neglected her children by not providing enough supervision or a clean home.
Kingston pleaded no contest in 1999 to felony child abuse for beating his 16-year-old daughter for running away from a prearranged polygamous marriage to one of his brothers. She has since filed a civil lawsuit against the larger Kingston clan.
Kingston only admits to one wife, Rachael Kingston, to whom he is legally married and has 13 children. He is believed to have 14 wives and more than 100 children, but he has repeatedly taken the Fifth Amendment when asked about the other wives.
He’s a prominent member of the polygamous family, which is also known to authorities as the Order. The secretive group, with an estimated 1,200 members, has amassed a $150 million business empire, running companies that include pawn shops, restaurant supply stores, dairies and mines.
As part of Valdez’s previous ruling removing the two teenage girls from the couple’s home, he ordered that a case worker from DCFS be allowed access to the couples’ other children and supervise visitation between the girls and their siblings.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Valdez heard evidence that Kingston, Mattingly and other members of the clan were disrupting the case worker’s access to the children. He also heard evidence that the children were continuing to be abused or neglected in Mattingly’s home.
Valdez ordered a hearing to be held Friday, when the judge will determine if removing the children was appropriate and whether they should be separated from the parents for the long term.
Kingston’s attorney, Daniel Irvin, who left the courthouse after the hearing with Kingston, Mattingly and their infant, said he was disappointed but refused further comment. He also refused to let his clients talk to reporters.
As the state moved to remove the children, the Kingston couple issued a desperate news release to media outlets calling on DCFS to stop its action. The couple had planned a news conference, but later canceled it.
“We are begging the DCFS, Please don’t tear our family apart! Help us!” the news release stated.
“Our children have repeatedly told state workers that there has been NO abuse. They have begged to stay with their parents.
“Their purpose is to take the children from all polygamist parents and break up their families.”