It doesn’t look much like a church. In fact, it used to be a ski lodge. But deep in a valley, south of Owen Sound, Ont., is the Church of Jesus Christ Restored: A place where an old Mormon doctrine, polygamy, has been allegedly practised in the shadows for more than 40 years. A former church wife told W5 her story.
Carol Christie was 18 when she says her mother, an unstable religious fanatic, drugged and manipulated her into “marrying” a charismatic preacher more than twice her age. His name was Stan King. In the early seventies Stan broke from The Reorganised Church of Latter Day Saints, and established his own fundamentalist Mormon sect. His followers called him The Prophet.
One of his entitlements as “Prophet” was the privilege of having plural wives: Women who were supposed to bear him special sons, princes to carry forth his teaching.
When Carol Christie moved into King’s farmhouse, near Sauble Beach, she says she joined his legal wife, and two other “church wives” -- one of whom, she says, was only 14. According to Carol, Stan had a fondness for group sex. And as time passed, she says King bedded three more “wives” ranging in age from 10 to 17.
But Carol was a favourite because she produced two sons in quick succession, James and Marcus. James was born in 1977, the same year the church started a printing company in Mississauga, Ont. Within five years, King and his followers bought a 200-acre property in his beloved Grey County. It was a bankrupt ski resort, simply rechristened “The Property.” They planned to build a temple there, high on a hill. But the temple was never built. Four years later Stan King, now living with a 20-year-old church wife, died of a stroke at the age of 58.
His followers gathered around his body, and prayed for the “Prophet’s” resurrection. A week went by. Carol says the stench became unbearable. Finally, without ceremony, his remains were put in the ground.
Stan King had fathered three sons with his legally-married wife Erna. Upon his death, his youngest, Fred, inherited his father’s mantle “Prophet” and his illicit wives. One of them, Carol Christie, became Fred’s property. And briefly, his bedmate.
“It was horrible,” she recalled in an interview with W5’s Victor Malarek. Carol didn’t like Fred, and couldn’t disguise it. So he ordered her to move to Guelph, Ont., where a group of church members could keep control of her.
Life in the church changed under the new Prophet, Fred. Carol says the first time he physically assaulted a church member, the congregation hung its head in fear. And that established a pattern of dread, violence and silence.
Growing up a son of the church, John Knisely says he took his share of beatings from Fred King. They’re actually half-brothers, sired from the same father, Stan King. But their shared paternity didn’t make life any easier for John.
Knisely was 15 when Fred pulled him out of school and put him to work at the church’s printing plant where he says he earned $10 or $20 a week, cash. Later, he got a paycheck, but says he had to turn most of it back to Fred and the church. Weary of beatings he and his family endured, or had to witness, he ran away 14 years ago.
It took Carol Christie longer. “I got to the point where I thought he was insane. I thought he would kill me the beatings were so severe.”
Four years ago she ran, but left her son Marcus behind. He was too afraid of the spiritual consequences of abandoning the church and the Prophet’s teachings to leave with her. It is Carol’s greatest regret.
W5 sent registered letters to Fred King requesting an interview to discuss allegations of polygamy and abuse. We also tried to deliver a letter to the property. At the door, Fred’s legal wife, Linda, would not accept it. She may have feared a summons. Within the past two years, Fred King and his church have faced lawsuits from six former church members like Carol Christie and John Knisely.
The lawsuits allege: “Fred emotionally brutalized the plaintiffs…by systematically creating an atmosphere of fear, which was used to prop up absolute obedience to a ruthless tyrant.”
King denied the allegations in filed Statements of Defence, but the lawsuits were settled quickly, with settlements believed to be worth several million dollars in total.
W5 did not manage to meet Fred King. But he may be aware of our inquiries. You can’t drive onto “The Property” anymore. There’s now a gate, complete with a heavy padlock and chain, and a sign warning no hunting or trespassing.