It didn’t take much to set off Fred King, the leader of a small, isolated church in Chatsworth Township, just south of Owen Sound, Ontario.
Sometimes he’d deliver “corrections and chastisements” by punching, kicking or spitting on parishioners, an Owen Sound court heard Tuesday. Other times he used humiliation or did something such as squeezing a child’s hand with crushing force for fighting with a sister.
The victims were his parishioners. In one case when a teen tried to run away, his grandmother tattled and Fred King, who was known simply as “The Prophet,” retaliated fiercely with a beating at a Sunday church service.
“The blows were all over his body, sometimes on the back of his head, but mostly on his arms and legs,” Grey County Crown attorney Michael Martin said while reading into the court record a statement of facts agreed to by Crown and defence.
King, 57, of Chatsworth Township, pleaded guilty before Superior Court Justice Clayton Conlan Tuesday to nine assaults which took place between Dec. 12, 1988 and Aug. 10, 2008, mostly in Chatsworth Township or Grey County, and in one case in Peel Region, involving four church members.
Other charges King faces are to be withdrawn when he’s sentenced Sept. 14, Martin said afterward.
King’s victims in the charges he admitted to Tuesday include three males between 11 and 19 years of age at the time, and Carol Christie.
Only Christie, 63, of Owen Sound, may be named under terms of a publication ban, which was lifted on her name with her agreement. It was imposed to protect the privacy of the other victims at the Crown’s request.
After a particularly severe and humiliating attack in front of parishioners, which was detailed in court, Christie ran from the church in March 2008, never to return. Two of the charges King pleaded to related to assaults on her when she was roughly 35 to 55 years old.
Christie came forward and was featured on a W5 investigative report and in local media in 2012 which detailed abuse allegations. The television report led the OPP to investigate, Martin said.
Carol and her husband John Christie also wrote a book about her nearly 40 years spent in the church — Property: The True Story of a Polygamous Church Wife. Proceeds will be kept for her son who is still in the church, and the up to 35 others there, to help them reintegrate into society if they ever leave the church.
John Christie said inquiries are being made to turn Carol’s experience into a feature film.
The statement of facts heard in court said Fred King’s father, Stan King, left the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints over “doctrinal issues to form the more conservative Church of Jesus Christ Restored.”
Church services were originally conducted in members’ homes in the Guelph area. Around 1984 the church purchased and renovated a former ski resort on a rural property at 396827 Concession 2-3 in the former Holland Township, near the village of Chatsworth.
Stan entered into a relationship with Carol when she was 18. She had two of his children, born in 1977 and 1979. Stan died in 1986 and son Fred became church leader, court heard.
Many church members lived in the Guelph area in other church members’ apartments or rented housing in Chatsworth Township. Many were employed at Resto Graphics, a printing company started by Stan King in Mississauga, later controlled by Fred King. All members would usually attend the Chatsworth property on weekends for services and related activities. Some young employees were home-schooled and had to work at the printing plant in their teens.
Beginning in 1986, Fred King would sometimes preach from 6 p.m. on Sundays until 6 a.m. Monday.
“At various times during the services, members would be singled out by Mr. King for corrections and chastisements,” including yelling, name-calling, hair-pulling and they would be told to “sit in front of the congregation with one’s pants around one’s ankles,” according the agreed facts.
Between 1988 and 2008, Carol King (later Christie), was repeatedly disciplined in front of the congregation. Fred King called her “squaw,” “Paiute” and other derogatory names focussed on her perceived indigenous heritage, the agreed facts said. King also called her a “bad parent” and “evil,” court heard.
King slapped her, dragged her out of her chair and forced her to stand in the corner. He pulled her hair, spat on her and once he poured a glass of water on her.
The final insult that drove Carol Christie out of the church was when King learned she’d spoken sternly to another woman’s 12-year-old who’d been “saucy” to her. King chastised Carol with vile language over the phone.
Then at Sunday service King called her more derogatory names and demanded how dare she speak sternly to the child, adding “. . . ‘as if your kids are any better.'”
“He came over to her chair, pulled her hair back and spat in her face. He pressed his finger repeatedly into her upper chest area and flicked the ridge of her nose with his fingers. He slapped her on the head repeatedly,” court heard.
According to the agreed statement of facts, in one of the other assaults King didn’t like the way one victim spoke to him and punched his arm as hard as he could for 10 minutes.
Another time King called a church worker to get in his truck, sped ahead before he could get in, chuckled then repeated the stunt, court heard. Once the worker was in, King drove fast over ditches and potholes then stopped, pulled him from the truck and kicked and hit him in the back, stomach and legs. He then ordered the victim to remain standing until someone came for him. After hours when no one did, the victim walked home.
One boy who’d drawn cartoons and notes that made fun of a teenaged girl was pointed out to King by a church member, the court was told. King tossed him to the floor in front of a women’s prayer circle and repeatedly kicked and punched him, then slapped two others in the face.
In another assault outlined in court, King ordered a male victim to strip naked and stand in front of his mother and another person outside at twilight. King then preached at them for hours, yelled and made fun of him as mosquitos bit him while he wasn’t allowed to move.
Among the charges that are to be withdrawn are six allegations of sexual misconduct including on a young girl and a woman. In two cases the charges alleged repeated sexual assaults. No explanation for not proceeding with them was offered in court and Martin declined to comment until sentencing.
A former church member has alleged that Fred King had many wives at once who were handed down from his father, Stan King. But no polygamy charges ever resulted from the 16-month police investigation.
King left the courthouse without saying anything or making eye contact with reporters while he waited for an elevator in the courthouse. One of his lawyers, Paul Mergler, declined to comment on behalf of himself and his client. King remains free on bail. King’s wife, Linda, and brother Joseph accompanied him to and from the courthouse.
Martin said there’s a joint recommendation on sentence but didn’t say what is was. Mergler asked for a three-month adjournment, saying “my client needs to put his house in order.”
Monday was to be the start of King’s three-week trial but instead court learned he would plead guilty Tuesday. Mergler told the court on Tuesday there had been late-breaking disclosure which allowed unresolvable issues to be resolved, without saying what that was.
Fred King’s brother, Judson King, is charged with assault with a weapon, sexual assault and three counts of assault between 1981 and 2007. He has yet to deal with his charges.