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In an extraordinary hearing Tuesday amid heightened courthouse security, 3rd District Juvenile Court Judge Andrew Valdez terminated Heidi Mattingly Foster's visits with her children by polygamist John Daniel Kingston after learning some relatives had concocted plans to abduct them and had made numerous death threats.
The state's key witness during the four-hour hearing was the couple's 16-year-old daughter, who said one plan called for her to "harm myself, die" around the one-year anniversary of being removed from her mother's home in order to dramatize her siblings' need to return to their parents.
The girl and a 13-year-old sister were taken into state custody on Feb. 20, 2004, after a family dispute that began over ear piercing and eventually uncovered evidence of abuse and neglect.
The teen said two of her half-sisters, Sheryl and Krista Nelson, and her uncle, Arlen Kingston, made death threats against the judge, the children's foster families, a caseworker and state attorneys. They also came up with various abduction plans that involved taking the children from their schools or foster homes.
The girl said the conversations never involved her father or mother, but she assumed they knew what was going on.
She said she thought her siblings knew of the plans. The teen said a younger sister recently told her their mother had said they would not be in state custody much longer.
Outside the courtroom, Mattingly Foster said she did not know about any abduction plan. Her plan "has always been to get my children home, safe, with me, with their family, where they belong," she said.
She said the state was falsely insinuating she might be part of a plan to use force to make that happen. While she hasn't always agreed with Valdez's orders, she has done everything asked of her, she said.
In court, Valdez had harsh criticism for Mattingly Foster.
"I feel bad for you," the judge said. "I thought you had the courage to stand up for your children. It appears you've failed to understand what is going to happen here. You're sacrificing your kids."
Valdez rejected Mattingly Foster's request that a no-contact order prohibiting her from seeing Kingston or other members of The Davis County Cooperative Society be lifted. He nearly held Kingston and Mattingly Foster in contempt after they spoke briefly in the courtroom after the hearing.
Later, Mattingly Foster said her mother is ill and she wants to be able to give her "a hug before she dies." She also said she wants to go to church. "I miss my church. Every American citizen in this country has the right to go to church except me."
Kingston and Mattingly Foster had not been informed of the hearing until Valdez contacted them by phone and gave them 30 minutes to show up. When Valdez was unable to contact Kingston attorney Daniel Irvin, he placed a call to brother Carl Kingston, an attorney, and arranged for him to listen in by telephone.
Neither Carl Kingston nor Mattingly Foster's attorney, Russ Pietryga, questioned witnesses called by the state, which included two foster mothers who have cared for eight other children since October. Mattingly Foster still has custody of the couple's 7-month-old girl. The couple's attorneys will have their say in a Feb. 22 hearing.
Valdez held the emergency hearing, requested Monday by Assistant Attorney General Carolyn Nichols, as five bailiffs kept watch in his courtroom. Officers checked cars entering the building's underground parking lot and 12 were on hand in the main lobby at the hearing's conclusion. The judge said law enforcement officers had kept watch on his home all weekend, although he didn't know why until the hearing. Nichols said law agencies across the state also had been alerted.
In her testimony, the teen said she decided recently to share the information after hearing an FBI agent speak at her school.
"I decided I was going to tell the truth on a few things I didn't tell the truth on," she said.
The 16-year-old described the threats as the major topic of conversation during home visits, which were terminated in August. Since then, she has had only supervised visits with her mother; Valdez barred visits between the girl and her father in June.
But the girl said her relatives talked to her about the threats and staging an abduction as recently as December.
She described the conversations as ideas, venting frustration, not "a plan in stone." The physical threats discussed involved running people off the road, shooting them or even blowing up the court building, she said.
The two foster mothers caring for the girl's siblings said the children have commented their parents would be coming for them soon. The women also said they had been followed by individuals later identified as Kingston relatives - Shawn Kingston, a cousin, and Ethan Tucker, a half brother - and felt someone had been sneaking around their homes. Security officers questioned Tucker twice this fall after he was spotted photographing the area around the Matheson Courthouse.
Valdez chastised Kingston for not telling his relatives to stay out of the matter and ordered Carl Kingston to inform the two men, all other relatives and members of The Order, as the Davis County Cooperative Society is known, to stay away from the children, the foster families and state officials.