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Polygamist mom guilty of abuse

But judge to allow more therapy time before custody ruling

SHARE Polygamist mom guilty of abuse

A judge ruled Wednesday that a young polygamist mother of 11 has abused her children but deserves more time to benefit from therapy and parenting education before any final decision is made regarding custody.

Third District Juvenile Judge Andrew Valdez found that Heidi Mattingly, a member of the polygamist Kingston clan and the mother of 11 children by its leader John Daniel Kingston, abused her children physically and emotionally.

Lawyers for the state argued that the court should stop trying to bring the mother and children back together and begin terminating her parental rights. All the children except an infant have been removed from her care.

Assistant Attorney General Carolyn Nichols said the state has offered various services to Mattingly for five years, but she merely goes through the motions of changing and then begins harming the children again.

"Ms. Mattingly won't change, so why should everybody in this courtroom try to change her?" Nichols asked. "It's futile and the children are at risk."

The court found that Mattingly hit children in the face until they bled, usually from the nose or mouth, has hit babies as young as 6 months old, hit one boy in the back with a broom, and ridiculed them and called them names.

Mattingly has been ordered by the court to stay away from the clan and John Daniel Kingston, as well as get individual therapy as well as counseling aimed at victims of domestic violence. The court found that Mattingly also has been physically abused and intellectually controlled by both John Daniel Kingston and the group itself.

Nichols stated that Mattingly's admission under oath that she would return to the clan tomorrow if given the chance shows that nothing has changed.

Nichols contended the home and lifestyle Mattingly has known before would subject the children to an environment where, among other things, women are treated as chattel, incest is condoned, laws are disobeyed and one's loyalty belongs to the organization above everything else.

Guardian ad litem Kristen Brewer argued that this case has been before the court for almost a year with no real change in Mattingly, who also has defied the court order to stay away from all members of the clan.

But Bonnie Peters, who is providing individual therapy for Mattingly, said the 33-year-old woman is making progress as far as understanding what abuse is and learning appropriate parenting skills as well as how to care for herself. Peters recommended trying home visits rather than the caseworker-supervised visits Mattingly now has with the children.

Peters, who is executive director of the Family Support Center, said Mattingly is changing in increments, which is not surprising for someone coming from a closed society.

"Essentially you and your children are on borrowed time," Valdez told Mattingly. "What I'm asking you to do is listen to the voices of your children. They are saying, 'Stand up for us, choose us over any man or organization.' "

E-mail: lindat@desnews.com