Salt Lake City -- An alleged polygamist has been arrested and charged with marrying his first cousin, and Utah's attorney general says it's a signal that the state is going after more offenders.
Jeremy Kingston, a member of the large, polygamous Kingston clan, was arrested Thursday at a family gathering in Bountiful on a charge of incest stemming from his 1995 arranged marriage to LuAnn Kingston, when she was 15 and he was 24.
Police had been looking for Jeremy Kingston since May when the incest charge was filed. LuAnn Kingston had left the marriage after five years and two daughters and asked the state to prosecute.
"My first reaction was, wow, they got him. I didn't think it would be so soon," LuAnn Kingston, now 23, said of the arrest Friday. "I'm glad."
Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said Friday that Kingston's arrest is meant to "send a message to these dictators."
"We have several active investigations ongoing," said Shurtleff's spokesman, Paul Murphy. "The concern is we keep hearing of evidence that young girls are being forced to marry against their will within many of these closed communities."
Jeremy Kingston, 32, spent just under three hours in jail before posting $50,000 bail. If convicted of the single count of felony incest, he could face up to five years in jail.
A tip led officers to Kingston as he attended a gathering of as many as 800 members of his extended family celebrating Pioneer Day, which commemorates the arrival of Mormon settlers in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. The pioneers brought polygamy with them, but when residents sought statehood the Mormon church renounced the practice.
The church now excommunicates people who advocate polygamy. However, there are believed to be thousands of polygamists in Utah who continue the tradition and say they are following fundamental doctrine.
The Kingston polygamous clan, called the Latter-Day Church of Christ, has an estimated 1,200 or more members. The group has amassed a $150-million business empire.
LuAnn Kingston said Jeremy Kingston had three wives and 17 children when he married her. She told investigators that her father-in-law, Joseph Ortell Kingston, is her half brother, making her ex-husband a nephew as well as a cousin. Authorities have said blood tests previously proved that the mothers of Jeremy and LuAnn Kingston were sisters.
She said she hopes other women living within polygamous groups can see that another life is possible.
"I hope that what I'm doing is helping," she said. "I hope I'm showing that you can actually leave and make something of yourself."