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Mattingly Must Write Note to Children if She Wants Visitation

Mattingly Must Write Note to Children if She Wants Visitation

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- If she wants to regain visits with, and ultimately custody of, the children she shares with a prominent polygamist, Heidi Mattingly must put her plans in writing.

A judge ruled Tuesday that Mattingly must write a letter to the children, who have been in state custody for several months, detailing the progress she's made through her own therapy and outline how she plans on providing a safe place for them if she regains custody.

Third District Juvenile Court Judge Andrew Valdez expressed a hope that the case, which has been marked by many distractions including allegations of a plot to kill the judge and harm foster parents, could get back to the goal of finding out what is best for the children.

"I want to know that these kids are going to be safe instead of the denials and motions," Valdez said.

The order came after a therapist for two of the children testified by phone that visits by Mattingly with the children wouldn't be productive until they know where she is "coming from."

"I think it's important for her to express that to the kids. What's she's done and how she's going to protect the kids," said Rob Butters.

The children were aware of rumors that people might try to kidnap them from their foster homes and were understandably afraid, Butters said, adding that visits right now would be "more fearful than productive."

Mattingly, 33, has 11 children with prominent polygamist John Daniel Kingston.

Two of the children, teenage girls, were placed in state custody a year ago and were found to have been abused and neglected by Kingston, 49, and neglected by Mattingly. One of the girls remains in foster care, and the other has been permanently placed with an aunt.

Eight more of the couple's children landed in state custody in October after allegations of abuse surfaced. The couple's youngest child, an infant daughter, remains in her mother's care.

Security surrounding the case has been tight since the 16-year-old daughter testified about a plot by clan members to kill the judge, a caseworker or state attorneys and kidnap the children from their foster homes.

At the beginning of Tuesday's hearing, Valdez allowed Mattingly's most recent attorney, Russell Pietryga to leave the case. Mattingly had previously filed a motion to substitute him, which was denied.

Pietryga's request to leave the case cited "a complete breakdown in communication" between himself and his client. Jeffery Noland was appointed to be Mattingly's new attorney.

Further discussion of the alleged plot and an evidentiary hearing to decide whether to reunify the 16-year-old girl with Mattingly were delayed to give Noland time to review the case.

Meanwhile, Kingston told reporters that the plot allegations were investigated by law enforcement and found to have no merit. He called the emergency hearing called two weeks because of the alleged threats a ploy to "get (the media) here and upset the public."

Valdez will hold an April 12 hearing at which he is expected to hear arguments about whether reunification of Mattingly and her children is a possibility.

"April 12 is a big one I think you need to focus on that," Valdez told Mattingly.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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