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Mattingly regains custody of 9 children

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Heidi Mattingly said she hasn't had a good night's sleep in over a year, but she looks forward to sleeping soundly now that nine of her children are home "safe in their beds."

State officials say they plan to continue to monitor the Kingston children and their safety now that a juvenile judge has returned full parental rights to Mattingly.

After a hearing Tuesday in a West Jordan courtroom, 3rd District Juvenile Judge Elizabeth Lindsley determined that Mattingly had made significant changes as a person and as a parent.

The judge also determined Mattingly's home was safe enough to have her children back. To that end, Lindsley ordered nine of Mattingly's 11 children returned to her Tuesday night, despite protests by attorneys for the Division of Child and Family Services and the guardian ad litem's office.

Outside court, Mattingly hugged friends and family members.

"I'm very happy" Mattingly said. "We're having a party, we're having a really big party."

In court, Kristin Brewer, director of the guardian ad litem's office, put Lindsley on notice that she plans to appeal the decision and asked the judge to stay her order. Lindsley denied the request.

Outside court, Brewer rushed past reporters without offering any explanation or details about the forthcoming appeal.

Attorneys for the Division of Child and Family Services said they do not plan to appeal Tuesday's ruling nor do they plan to join the guardian ad litem's office's appeal at this time.

State officials petitioned to terminate Mattingly's parental rights in 2004 after investigators alleged Mattingly physically abused her children and kept her home in poor condition.

The children's father, John Daniel Kingston, was sentenced to 28 weeks in jail in 1999 after allegedly belt-whipping his then 16-year-old daughter. Among other allegations was that he had attempted to marry the girl to his brother, David Ortell Kingston, as well as allegations that he was prepping his then 13-year-old daughter for marriage.

David Ortell Kingston was sentenced up to five years in prison for incest and unlawful sexual conduct, also in 1999.

Since then state officials and the Kingstons have battled over the fate of John Daniel Kingston and Mattingly's children.

Lindsley said she wanted to make it very clear that a no-contact order between Mattingly and her children and Kingston was still in effect. This included that Kingston could not talk to them while attending their church. Violating the order "could result in the two of you going to jail," the judge warned.

The children are also required to attend school, and Lindsley allowed the children to attend the Ensign Learning Center, a school operated by Kingston's brother, Hyrum Kingston. Officials requested the right to make surprise visits to the center to ensure the children are attending school. Lindsley said if she finds a violation, she will require the children to attend public schools.

Yet with the Kingston children home, issues still remain unresolved regarding the couple's two oldest daughters and Kingston's alleged unpaid child support.

Deputy Attorney General Carolyn Nichols said there still remains a petition to terminate the parental rights for two of Kingston's oldest daughters, now 17 and 15.

Lindsley scheduled two separate multiday trials for Mattingly and Kingston in late October and early December.

The judge also scheduled an Oct. 14 hearing to deal with the child-support issue. Nichols said their investigation shows that Kingston has not made child support payments since last November.

Outside court, Kingston said releasing his children to Mattingly was a good "first step" with a "second step" being his eventual reunification with the children and one of his wives.

Mattingly noted that she would like to one day re-unite with Kingston. She also said despite Tuesday's ruling, she does not expect the state will leave her alone.

"I don't feel this will get the state off my back" she said.

DCFS spokeswoman Carol Sisco said Family Participation Workers will conduct regular checks at Mattingly's home and school to make sure the mother is complying with the court's orders. Sisco said foster parents who have been caring for the Kingston children were put on immediate notice Tuesday afternoon that the children needed to be ready to be picked up and taken home.

E-mail: gfattah@desnews.com