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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The state of Utah is trying to prove a child abuse claim against polygamist John Daniel Kingston, alleging a decade-long pattern of physical abuse and neglect of the 10 children he has with one of his wives.

The trial began in juvenile court Thursday against Kingston, a prominent member of the clan, and Heidi Foster, one of at least 14 wives Kingston is believed to have.

Two of the couple's children, a 15-year-old girl and a 13-year-old girl, ran away from home after they were threatened with beatings for getting their ears pierced, according to testimony.

Foster has been investigated by the Utah Department of Child and Family Services at least three times since 1994, and found each time to have neglected her children by not providing enough supervision or a clean home.

In 1994, Foster left her six children, ages 1 though 6, with a 9-year-old baby sitter, according to testimony. Investigators also found rotting food, flies and dirty diapers in the house.

Neither of the two girls who fled the home, and who are currently in state custody, testified in open court. The teens provided taped testimony, which is not available to the public because of their age. Whereas court proceedings in the case are open to the public, some documents, including the petition filed by the state alleging the neglect and abuse, are not.

In court Thursday, the 15-year-old took the stand to be cross-examined by the defense, but no questions were asked. She left the courtroom in tears without testifying after reportedly mouthing an exchange with her mother, said state-appointed guardian Kristin Brewer.

At one point, Third District Juvenile Court Judge Andrew Valdez admonished Foster for failing to answer Brewer's questions.

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"This is getting difficult here," Valdez said. "I'm on the verge of declaring her a hostile witness."

Neither Brewer nor defense attorneys representing Kingston and Foster offered any comment to reporters outside the courtroom. The trial is scheduled to be continued Friday.

In 1999, Kingston pleaded no contest to felony child abuse after beating his 16-year-old daughter for running away from a prearranged polygamous marriage to his brother, David O. Kinston.

The Kingston clan, called the Latter-Day Church of Christ, includes an estimated 1,200 members. The secretive group has amassed a $150-million business empire, running companies that include pawn shops, restaurant supply stores, dairies and mines throughout northern Utah.

AP-WS-05-20-04 2024EDT

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