Promises broken, a killing in therapy, a life erased
Carla Crowder and Peggy Lowe
Denver Rocky Mountain News
Her name was Candace, a 10-year-old girl with long brown hair, a shy smile and a sprinkle of freckles across her nose.
She began life in a North Carolina backwater with a teen mom, a violent dad, and a birth certificate that said Candace Tiara Elmore. But no one is supposed to know about that.
When she was 5, she was plucked away by social services and given to a well-to-do nurse who wanted a child to love.
A new birth certificate, a new name: Candace Elizabeth Newmaker, born in the city of Durham, N.C., to a mother named Jeane.
Candace embraced the good times her new life brought. But there was trouble behind the doors of Jeane Newmaker's home.
Jeane tried everything for Candace - doctors, counselors, drugs. Finally, in April, she brought Candace west to Evergreen for two weeks of a controversial psychotherapy called rebirthing.
Therapists curled Candace into the fetal position inside a flannel sheet and pushed against her from all sides. She gasped for air. She begged them to stop. She cried out that she was dying. They said go ahead.
And then she did.
Now her mother, two unlicensed therapists and their two assistants face criminal charges, the evidence a videotape they made of Candace's final, tortured hour.
"She didn't have a chance from the moment she was born until the moment she died," said Sheriff Barbara Pickens of Lincoln County, N.C.
Candace was promised by her mama she wouldn't be taken from her. She was promised a better life with her adoptive mother. She was promised she'd be able to breathe. She was promised she'd be safe and happy after she was reborn.
All promises broken.
A life erased.
This is the story of that life, Candace's story.
Her mama's second chance.
Lincoln County, N.C.- Angela Maria Elmore gave birth to a 9-pound daughter on Nov. 19, 1989.
She named her Candace.
"I seen it on TV and I thought it was the most beautiful name," said Angie, a short, wiry woman who moves in birdlike twitches and never seems to land in one place for long. Freckles cover her pale skin. Heavy makeup circles her large blue eyes, and her mouth seems too small to let out all she wants to say.
Chubby Candace - "she looked like a big Bubba" - was Angie's chance for redemption, though she was only 18.
She had given birth to a boy two years earlier, while still a foster child, all rough edges, bitter and disappointed from being shuttled from one home to another. She gave him up for adoption, knowing he wouldn't have a chance with her.
Angie's mother, Mary Clendenin, had spent her childhood in foster care as well. Once grown, she moved about constantly. Sometimes Mary could take care of Angie and her brother. Other times it was up to the Lincoln County Department of Social Services. Mary's on-again-off-again motherhood tormented her daughter.
Angie said she wanted her own family, wanted to prove she could do it right. She had a husband by 17, marrying Todd Evan Elmore at Long's Chapel Baptist Church in tiny Maiden, N.C.
Nestled in the lush farmlands of southwestern North Carolina, the area is dotted with churches that advertise Saturday night "singings" and with restaurants that serve fried okra. Lincoln County features the state's only female sheriff. It was also home to an active chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. Angie grew up here. Todd moved down from Winston-Salem.
"I wasn't in love with him," Angie said. "It was to get away from my mom." Todd was six years older. He came with a criminal record and built on it throughout the marriage, mostly petty offenses like driving with no license and running from the cops. Lincoln County Sheriff Pickens described him as unable to make it through the month without lying, stealing and raising a ruckus.
"He's a twerp," Pickens said.
Angie wanted Candace, planned the pregnancy. She played classical music and read stories aloud when she was pregnant. She said she'd heard that it would make her baby smart someday.
When Candace was born, it was David Davis - the man Mary had married - who was there with the video camera. He even chose her middle name, Tiara. A precious jewel, he thought. A mechanic with the state Department of Transportation, David was Candace's step-grandfather. But as soon as she could talk, he was her Paw Paw.
"Someone who didn't have to love you," he said of Candace, "and they love you anyway."
Candace would climb onto his lap for story time. Goldilocks and the Three Bears was her favorite. Once, David sent one of the bears to 7-Eleven for a Coca-Cola, and Candace would have none of it. No Paw Paw, tell it right, she warned him.
Angie and Todd had two more children. Chelsea was born in February 1991, followed by Michael in October 1992.
Steady jobs were scarce. Angie worked temporarily at a nursing home, at a fast food restaurant, then started beauty school but didn't finish.
Todd couldn't seem to hold a job and was just generally unpleasant, often interfering with Angie's attempts to work. "He would've lied about the weather if he could've gotten away with it," David said.
They moved constantly, a trail of diapers and desperation crisscrossing Lincoln and Catawba counties' trailer parks, run-down apartments and housing projects. When things got tight, it was off to the pawn shop. Todd pawned 76 items during those years, including Angie's wedding ring and Candace's high chair.
David tried to help, sometimes paying rent, bringing in bags of groceries.
"It was a constant worry," he said. "Their environment was not stable. There have been times when there was some level of neglectfulness. They were in situations where they shouldn't have been."
His words emerged haltingly, as if he was thinking through every syllable. "All of these children, to my knowledge, were always fed, always clothed, always housed."
"Always loved," Mary added.
Deputies frequently responded to domestic disturbance calls at Todd and Angie's home, Sheriff Pickens said.
Police charged Todd with assaulting his wife at least once, but the case was dropped, Angie says, because she didn't make it to court on time to testify against him.
It's impossible to retrieve details of Todd's alleged attacks because Lincoln County destroys old court records. Todd Elmore, who has listed at least 10 addresses since 1989, could not be located for this story.
Angie was scared enough to pack up her children and leave in 1992. Candace celebrated her third birthday in a battered women's shelter. Angie saved photos of their party. Candace's wavy brown hair hangs in freshly cut bangs as she blows out candles on her grocery-store cake, decorated with a wild-haired troll doll.
Even at 3, Candace had a strong personality.
She was rebellious but tenderhearted, her grandmother said. She couldn't stand to see anyone cry.
And she could flash a temper.
Most of all, she tried to protect her family.
She mothered her brother and sister, and she tried to keep her father from hurting her mother.
Candace wedged herself between Todd and Angie when they fought. "She would beat up her father for beating on me," Angie said.
"I always said she was half-grown when she was born," Mary said. Privilege with a price
Warren, PA. - Jeane Elizabeth Newmaker's background is small-town aristocrat.
She grew up in this slow-moving and nostalgic hamlet of clapboard houses, railroads, lumber mills and red brick factories. American flags flap from every few doors, as if the Veteran's Day parade will come whistling by any second.
Warren is insulated by the deep green padding of the Allegheny National Forest of northern Pennsylvania. The muddy Allegheny River winds through, a syrupy link to the outside world.
People still refer to the "Newmaker Home," her grandparents' mansion on Market Street, since demolished for a new library wing.
Jeane's grandfather, Floyd Henry Newmaker, was a pioneer in the furniture business, an industry which is still the pride of Warren. The family was socially prominent, philanthropic - and gossip fodder.
When Jeane's uncle Ben was killed in 1956 in a sports car crash, it was big news. Her father, John, identified the body.
She was 3 at the time, John and Dorothy Newmaker's youngest daughter. One family member believes John was pushed over the edge by his brother's death.
"As children, we were very aware of the fact that there were problems because of his drinking," said Mary Cashman Dahl, one of Jeane's girlhood friends, who still lives in Warren.
Jeane - she was Jeanie then - graduated with honors in 1971 from Warren High School.
She stayed busy with student council, French Club, Latin Club, Ski Club, class plays. People who knew her then described Jeane as serious, pleasantly social. Not a snob, and not a "swinger," their word for the party crowd.
After high school, Jeane went to college at the University of Rochester in New York, graduating in 1975. She earned a master's degree in nursing from the University of Virginia in 1980.
While Jeane was training to be a nurse, her father was getting DUIs. After a second arrest in 1980, a judge ordered him into rehabilitation.
And there, in a state psychiatric hospital, he first crossed paths with Fannie Cotillion, the woman he would divorce his wife to marry. Jeane was 28 when her parents divorced.
As far as Fannie Cotillion Newmaker was concerned, Jeane was the most responsible of the three daughters. It was Jeane who returned home briefly to Warren to take care of her cancer-stricken mother, Dorothy, who died in 1986.
Lung disease took John a year later.
"Jeanie was kind of different, a bossy person, not that she didn't have a heart," Fannie Newmaker said. "She kind of reminded me of a sergeant in the service ... and she used to get mad at her dad because he drank." Jeane was the only daughter to attend John's funeral, she said.
Since the early 1980s, Jeane has worked as a nurse practitioner at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. She cares for children, specializing in pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition.
She's lived for more than a decade in a stately two-story brick home in Durham, paid for with money from her grandfather's trust, according to neighbors. The five-bedroom home is perched on a fenced corner lot in Hillandale, a golf-course neighborhood with large, leafy yards where modest ranch houses mingle with sprawling, elegant Colonials.
These days, there is a new sign on the front door: Journalists go away. Jeane Newmaker, 47, declined comment for this story.
Legacy of poverty and neglect.
Lincoln County - Candace's story really begins in the 1950s on a street corner in Morgantown, W.Va., coal country. Candace's grandmother, Mary, wasn't even school age when her mother abandoned her there, clutching the small, soft hand of her older sister.
Before her parents took off for good, one of Mary's earliest memories is being caught eating from the neighbor's garbage.
Mary spent the rest of her childhood in foster homes. Seventeen in all. At 16, she married.
Two children were born, Angie and a son, Albert, but the marriage quickly soured. Mary took off for North Carolina, a single mother with little education. She lost her job, lost her apartment and gave her daughter, Angie, to social services.
"I didn't want her on the streets," she said. "I slept in the car." Mary, now 48, is both Southern and Italian, every inch of her 4-foot-10 frame brimming with drama and emotion.
"I am the fault of Angie being the way she is," she said, "because I am not stable."
After Mary turned her over to the county, Angie was in 10 foster homes and two group homes, including one for emotionally disturbed youth. Some memories still haunt her. In one home, she said she was fed dog food as punishment.
Soon, Angie was tagged as a problem child. She was angry, always angry. "These people didn't love me," she said. "I was a paycheck."
Angie's outbursts grew violent, leading Lincoln County to categorize her as a "Willie M." child, based on a notorious North Carolina court case.
Willie M. was the teen-age plaintiff in a 1980 class-action lawsuit against the state's mental health system. A federal judge ordered North Carolina to take better care of children whose violence was related to mental illness.
"The problem is the lawsuit covered them until they were 18," said Deborah Greenblatt, an attorney who represented the Willie M. class. "Someone could be in a treatment program and be getting real results, and they have their 18th birthday and they're dropped ... into the fire, out to the streets."
In order to be labeled "Willie M.," a child had to be diagnosed as mentally ill, something Angie is ashamed of to this day. She won't talk about her illness.
Aware of Angie's past, the Lincoln County Department of Social Services kept close watch on her and Todd.
The first call about potential abuse reported that Chelsea was walking around with scrapes across her back. As Angie tells it, they were living in a trailer with a back door that didn't latch tightly. Chelsea tumbled out.
It was an accident.
When Angie found out social workers were investigating, she and Todd moved from the county. Authorities tracked them down months later. The family says they had to wrench Candace and Chelsea from Angie as they clung to their mother.
All three children were placed in foster care.
Angie got another chance when social services returned Candace. During one counseling session, according to Angie, "Candace latched on and said, 'Please, Mama, don't let them take me away.' I promised her no, then they took her again."
Angie and Mary blame the second time on a typically explosive fight between the two of them. Mary took off in her car, leaving Angie stranded, unable to pick Candace up at Head Start pre-school.
Angie had no phone. Mary remembers telling the social workers, who finally called her, to keep Candace overnight until things simmered down.
Court hearings followed. At age 5, Candace was on the path traveled by her mother and grandmother: She became a ward of the county.
Candace didn't adjust well. Social workers and judges talked about her crying fits and her temper. One foster mother claimed that Candace had caused her to have an asthma attack.
Six years after Angie aged out of the Willie M. program, she appeared before a judge to try to get Candace and Chelsea and Michael back. She was 24. As the judge looked over Candace's file, he saw the caseworker's notes. Candace had too many angry outbursts, was too rebellious in foster care. "Like mother, like daughter. Another Willie M."
That's what Angie recalls the judge saying.
And it still chafes her, cutting at the loving image she retains of her oldest daughter. She insists that Candace was a good girl when she lived with her.
"She was another flaw in the system to them. She was a system child to them. And I know what it feels like. I know what she was going through."
Lincoln County social services won't say why the Elmore children were removed. "It's our job to make sure kids are safe," said director Susan McCracken. "I feel that's what was done in any case we've been involved in." David and Mary considered taking the children.
But with his elderly mother to attend to, they decided the three, all under 6, wouldn't get the attention they deserved. They also feared the reach of Todd Elmore.
David recited a checklist that went through his mind: Adoptive parents undergo rigorous criminal background checks. They desperately want these children. They have more money to provide for them.
"I've beaten myself up over it as the years go by," he said. "But I told myself they could have a better life."
New friends, nice neighbors, a pink bike.
Durham, N.C. - Candace Tiara Elmore became Candace Elizabeth Newmaker in North Carolina's record books on June 14, 1996. The state issued her a fresh birth certificate with Jeane as her mother, Durham as her birthplace. Jeane rechristened her daughter with her own middle name, establishing a new family tie.
All of a sudden, there was a little brown-haired girl at Jeane Newmaker's big home on Georgia Avenue.
The records of Candace's adoption, which took more than a year to be finalized, are tightly sealed. North Carolina has one of the nation's strictest adoption secrecy laws, and no one from social services will talk about Candace's life.
The adoption was filed in Orange County, adjacent to Jeane's home county of Durham, three hours northeast of Candace's birthplace in Lincolnton.
Jeane took two months off work when Candace came to live with her. By all accounts, she became a supermom. Her tireless devotion to Candace impressed the parents of children in Candace's new circle of friends.
"There was nothing that child did not have," said neighbor Margaret Addison. "There was nothing that child did not do."
Candace's new teachers at Easley Elementary found this quirky, bright little girl easy to love.
Jeane drove Candace past neighborhood schools to Easley, one of the top public schools in the county. She paid extra for the privilege.
Candace was wary and withdrawn in her first days there. She'd snap at children in before-and after-school care. Don't look at me. Don't talk to me. Leave me alone, she told them.
Ray Alban taught Candace in first grade, not long after the adoption. On the first day of school, he heard a scared voice outside. It was Candace. She didn't want to come inside his classroom.
"There's a boy in there, and I don't like boys," Candace was saying. Then he heard Jeane: "That's not a boy. That's a man, and he's your teacher."
Candace wasn't his most gifted student, but Alban quickly became fond of her. "She wasn't a behavior problem at all," he said. He credits Jeane for her progress, citing her involvement with Candace, and with the school.
Smaller children, special education students and disabled kids in wheelchairs drew Candace's attention. "Candace would want to wheel them around," Alban said.
Candace also liked horses. She drew them, read books about them. Jeane enrolled her in equestrian classes in second grade. Family snapshots show her comfortably in the saddle, holding braided reins, her ponytail dangling from beneath her riding helmet.
Candace loved animals, and Jeane welcomed any stray dogs or cats. To neighbors and school acquaintances, Candace was growing more secure. She had a base of best girlfriends, and they went skating together and giggled at slumber parties.
Second-grade teacher Janet Pinkerton remembers Candace's book bag. It was loaded with kid paraphernalia. Candace was handy at crafts, stringing together little beaded pins.
Pinkerton still has one.
Once, when Candace was student of the week, she designed a poster about her life. In the spot for family she wrote about Chelsea and Michael, the little sister and brother left behind.
Her classmates taunted her. She was adopted. She had no sister and brother. Candace insisted that she did, and she brought in their pictures to prove it.
After Candace moved on to third grade, she'd drift by Pinkerton's room for hugs.
"It made me feel special," she said. "I really loved her."
Jeane enrolled Candace in gymnastics, swimming and ballet, and took her on vacations.
They attended the local Catholic church, Immaculate Conception. Candace was baptized and made her First Holy Communion last year. She was part of "faith formations," kids who take catechism classes every Sunday morning.
Candace could sometimes be mischievous, like most kids, said her catechism teacher, Wade Marlett. She wasn't real affectionate, he thought, but most kids her age aren't.
The little girl seemed resilient.
"She was not frightened, squashed," Marlett said. "She was a real person." The child whose early years had been so disrupted had seemingly found her place in Jeane's stable Durham neighborhood. She was always zipping around on her pink bicycle, or walking her dogs. Neighbors remarked on how responsible and well-mannered she seemed.
Candace watched each morning as Bill Skubish, who lived across the street, drove his motorized wheelchair to the bottom of his driveway to retrieve his newspaper.
When Skubish fell and was hospitalized, Candace made him a get-well card on her computer: "For Mr. Bill Skubish from Candace Newmaker."
Candace loved playing dress-up with Victoria, a little girl who often visited her great-grandmother, another across-the-street neighbor.
Victoria was three years younger than Candace, who tutored her in reading and math. Margaret Addison, another neighbor and Victoria's grandmother, credits Candace for Victoria's advanced reading skills.
But pink bikes, cool toys and new friends couldn't erase memories of a painful past, of her young mother long gone, of a brother and sister. Candace confided all this one day to Victoria.
"She said, 'You're lucky, you're with your family,"' Addison said, recalling the conversation between the two girls. "She said, 'Your mama loves you."' Victoria didn't understand, so Candace explained that she was adopted. What's that, Victoria asked.
"That means Jeane is my mom now because she wanted me, I came from my new mama's heart," Candace said.
See, Candace explained, "Sometimes, mamas don't want their children." An answer in Evergreen
Durham, N.C. - Inside the home on Georgia Avenue, Jeane was having a difficult time with the little girl who so charmed neighbors.
She confided in friends about her struggles.
"Jeane adopted Candace when others might not have," said the Rev. David McBriar, pastor of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Durham, where Jeane and Candace were parishioners.
"She thought she could help the child," McBriar said. "She thought she could provide a stable home for Candace."
McBriar knew Candace was troubled. He associated her problems with a bruised family background, with her experiences with social services.
Jeane was in her early 40s when she got Candace, and McBriar said she found her new daughter "a handful."
"There evidently was something behind closed doors that we didn't know about," Margaret Addison said. "She seemed like a normal child." Jeane turned to professional help.
She enrolled Candace with a Duke pediatrician who was studying children with attention-deficit disorder.
"This kid had been through a lot," Dr. Ave Lachiewicz said. "I don't think she was a normal, happy kid. She could smile and be real cute, then she could be mean. "It was like having the average 18-year-old adolescent in your house." Lachiewicz met with Candace's teacher, either second or third grade as best she remembers. She learned that Candace tried hard in class, was truly "invested" in herself.
Yes, she was stingy with affection. There was a frostiness about her. But Lachiewicz saw that as "her defense mechanism for being through so many placements."
Jeane investigated other therapeutic options and treatments. She took Candace to traditional therapists, and consulted with experts in depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Candace saw two other Duke doctors and at least one other mental health professional.
She was given an assortment of mood-altering drugs - an anti-depressant, an anti-psychotic to calm her, an amphetamine to combat attention deficit disorder. But the regimens of medication and therapies weren't working. Finally, Jeane came upon a new buzz word being bandied about in adoption and foster family circles - attachment disorder.
The term describes a child's inability to bond with his or her new parents. While the concept has been around for some time, defining it as a condition unto itself has grown dramatically since the boom in international adoptions in the late 1980s.
Well-meaning adoptive parents have found themselves living with volatile, even vicious, children. These parents have described their mounting guilt as they grow to fear and hate their adopted children. They say it was naive to believe that love could cure any problem.
At an attachment disorder workshop in North Carolina, Jeane heard symptoms discussed that sounded identical to Candace's. Her research led her to the Internet, where she found a Web site for a group called ATTACh, the Association for the Treatment and Training in the Attachment of Children. Jeane attended an ATTACh national conference in Alexandria, Va., in 1999. There, she met therapist Bill Goble, who had her fill out an inventory sheet of Candace's behaviors.
Goble would say later that Jeane had already concluded that Candace suffered from attachment disorder. Although he never met Candace, Goble determined her case "fairly severe."
He suggested Connell Watkins in Colorado.
Watkins, an unlicensed psychotherapist in Evergreen, and her mentor, Dr. Foster Cline, are Colorado's pioneers in attachment disorder.
According to Cline's theories - the gospel for attachment therapists - the disorder can be traced to infancy. Everything is a crisis. Hunger, pain, a wet diaper. If your parents did not respond to those needs, the chunk of your brain that tells you to trust people close to you never develops.
These infants grow into cunning, dangerous children, Cline says. Some lie about everything and seem to have no conscience, he says.
Cline believes the best therapy involves turning back the clock and recreating what the child missed as an infant. Therapies that restrict movement and force the child to surrender control come into play.
During this "holding" therapy, a child lies across the laps of parents or therapists or both. Often, the youngster's arms and legs are restrained. If he or she flies into a rage, the parent or therapist tightens the grip.
The goal is to show the child that someone can control them, and that they can feel safe at the same time. The techniques are not pretty to watch, "just like heart surgery isn't," Cline says.
There are parents who swear by the holding therapies and Cline's work, describing it as the miracle they had prayed for. But some mainstream child psychologists and pediatricians are alarmed by the escalating use of the attachment diagnosis. They say it gives false hope to parents, and holding therapies may further damage already troubled children. "I don't think it's been extensively researched and I think a lot of the date for this disorder comes largely from anecdotes rather than from systematic studies," said Scott Lilienfeld, a psychology professor at Emory University in Atlanta.
In any case, teachers, neighbors and other adults who knew Candace insist her public behavior was nowhere near the extremes associated with attachment disorder.
"I did not have any idea she was a disturbed child," said Wade Marlett, the catechism teacher. "I never witnessed anything vaguely like that or even a tendency like that in Candace."
The one person who can say with any certainty, Jeane Newmaker, isn't talking.
But Jeane believed she had found her answer.
On Jan. 20, she signed a contract with Connell Watkins, agreeing to pay $7,000 for a two-week rebirthing therapy. Watkins' practice appealed to Jeane, in part, because they would stay in a private home with one of Watkins' assistants. She didn't want to stay alone in a Colorado hotel with her daughter for two weeks.
"She felt that Candace Newmaker would become more enraged during the therapy than what she had been at home with her," Jefferson County sheriff's investigator Diane Obbema wrote in an affidavit.
Jeane described Candace's behavior at home to the investigator as "assaultive," but did not offer specifics. The years of dealing with a troubled child were wearing on Jeane, who told Obbema that the entire process was "so frustrating and emotionally laden." Still, she was "trying to hold it together," and was relieved to arrive in Colorado. She was finally going to get help.
The therapy began on April 10 when Candace met with Dr. John Alston, a psychiatrist in private practice, who also works with The Attachment Center at Evergreen, one of the best known attachment treatment clinics in the country.
Alston declined comment.
Prosecutors said the powerful drugs Candace took to control her moods and behavior were changed repeatedly in the two weeks before her death. Just before arriving in Evergreen, Jeane took her off Dexadrine, the amphetamine being used to combat attention deficit disorder. Alston stopped Candace's use of Effexor, an anti-depressant, investigators said.
Candace's dosage of Risperdal, a calming medication, was doubled on April 11. Jeane told investigators the anti-psychotic drug was to counteract Candace's history of assaultive behavior - again without providing specifics.
Although Alston had stopped the Effexor, Candace began taking it again the day before she died because her therapy hadn't progressed as they'd hoped, Jeane told investigators.
The drugs were dispensed to Candace each day by Brita St. Clair, Watkins' office manager, who hosted the Newmakers during their stay in Evergreen. St. Clair was engaged to Jack McDaniel, whom Candace was told to call "Daddy Jack."
McDaniel, a high school graduate with no medical or therapy training, was to be paid $700 to write a report about Candace's two weeks with Watkins and Julie Ponder, a California therapist.
Watkins later told investigators that the drugged Candace had "a look in her eye like nobody's home." Prosecutor Steve Jensen charged that the therapists modified Candace's drug intake in order to manipulate her.
"They went so far as to control even the mental state of the child," Jensen said during a hearing in August.
A week into the program, Jeane and Candace were led through "compression" therapy - a breakthrough. Candace, wrapped in a sheet but with her head exposed, was directed to lie down on the floor.
Two cushions from a nearby couch were placed on either side of her. Then, Jeane lay across the cushions and Candace, making a cross with their bodies. The goal was control, for Candace to become compliant and for Jeane to be in charge. If all went well, Candace would connect visually or in some other way with Jeane, the therapists said.
As Candace was unwrapped after the three-hour session, Jeane moved to a chair. The therapists told Candace to crawl to the chair, to lie in her mother's arms like an infant, and to let her mother feed her from a plate. Candace did as she was told. She looked into Jeane's eyes and let her mother hold her. Jeane was so happy she began to sob uncontrollably. "The child actually connected," said David Savitz, one of the defense lawyers who has viewed the videotaped session. "How thrilled Jeane Newmaker was."
"I can't do it. I can't breathe." Evergreen - It is 9:35 a.m. on Tuesday, April 18, Candace is in a first-floor room at Watkins' home in Evergreen with therapist Julie Ponder. The videotape is rolling as Ponder tells Candace what is about to take place.
This account is drawn from preliminary hearing testimony by Jefferson County investigators and prosecutors, as well as the criminal affidavit used to bring charges in the case.
Ponder notices that Candace is yawning repeatedly. Candace says she had the nightmare again last night, the one in which she was being murdered. She has a vague memory about her birth mother. Maybe when she was a very little girl, Candace says, her mama dropped her from a two-story window.
Ponder reassures her, telling Candace that her new mom loves her. Do you want to be reborn to your new mom, Ponder asks. Candace says she does. That she wants to be safe, and not fall out the window.
Ponder tells her about being reborn. Being a baby is hard, being born is hard, she says, you must scream and cry because that's how a baby does it. Then, you must look for your mother, reach for her out of the womb. "You will have lots of air to breathe," she says.
Ponder tells her to take off her shoes. Candace is dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, sitting on a pad on the floor. Ponder tells Candace that the sheet will be wrapped around her to represent the womb, that it will be tight around her, that she will have to work hard to wriggle out and be born to her mother.
"You're going to go through the birth canal. While you're in the womb, you'll have plenty of air to breathe," she says again. It's 9:44 a.m. Candace is told to stand up. Ponder puts a queen-size blue flannel sheet on the floor. Candace lies down on her left side and folds herself into the fetal position. Ponder wraps her tightly, gathering the four corners of the sheet at the top of Candace's head and twisting them together.
Watkins enters the room and props four pillows tent-like over Candace's body. Jeane Newmaker and Jack McDaniel enter the room. Brita St. Clair pushes Tammy, her wheelchair-bound adult foster daughter, into the room. Tammy, who is mentally and physically handicapped, is placed in the corner. No one says why.
Watkins sits at Candace's feet. St. Clair leans her back against Candace's knees. McDaniel lies next to St. Clair, along Candace's chest. Ponder is at Candace's head, holding the sheet tightly closed in her left hand. Jeane is told to stay near Candace's head, where she is supposed to emerge, and to aim her words to Candace through the top of the sheet. The four adults, with a cumulative weight of 673 pounds, begin pushing against the 70-pound girl.
Candace is uncomfortable and confused. "Whoever is pushing on my head, it's not helping," she says, exasperated. Ten minutes in, Candace is ready to give up. "I can't do it, I can't do it," she says. "I can't breathe. I can't breathe."
A minute later, Candace says she is going to die. She begs for air. Watkins and Ponder keep pushing, telling Candace that being reborn is "the hardest thing that you do."
The adults reposition themselves, Watkins bracing her feet against a couch, Ponder pushing from a brick hearth. "Please," Candace says, "please stop pushing, I can't breathe.
"OK, I'm dying. I'm sorry," Candace says. Watkins and Ponder yell back at Candace. "You want to die? OK, then die. Go ahead, die right now."
It goes on. All four are pushing, sometimes sitting up against Candace, sometimes reclining, placing more weight on top of her. Jeane begins to feel rejected. Candace isn't trying to be reborn to her. Watkins had warned Jeane it would be like this. The kids try to get out of it by saying they can't breathe, that they have to go to the bathroom. The unattached child is manipulative. You must show who's in control. "Please, you said you would give me some oxygen," Candace says after 20 minutes.
A minute later, Candace gags and vomits. "I'm throwing up. I just threw up. I gotta poop. I gotta poop."
"Go ahead," Ponder says.
"Uh, I'm going in my pants," Candace says.
"Stay there with the poop and vomit," Watkins says.
A half-hour into it, Candace becomes quiet. Ponder and Watkins order her to scream for her life. She's gagging, but says no. Ponder digs in, repositions herself, breathing hard and grunting while pushing on Candace with her hands and body. Candace gasps for air, then whimpers.
"She needs more pressure over here so she can't ... so she really needs to fight if she wants air," Ponder says. McDaniel obeys, and repositions himself on the pillow over Candace's head. She whimpers again.
"Getting pretty tight in here," Watkins says. "Yep, getting tighter and tighter and getting less and less air," Ponder says.
Ten minutes pass.
"Baby, do you want to be reborn?" Jeane asks.
A weak response. "No."
It is Candace's last word.
"She's stuck there in her own puke and poop," Ponder says.
Another 10 minutes go by. Ponder reaches inside the sheet.
"I got my hand right in front of her face," she says.
"No, she's breathing fine," Watkins says.
Candace stays quiet. Seven minutes pass, and Ponder places her hand inside again.
"She's pretty sweaty, which is good," Ponder says. "It is wet inside there."
Watkins gestures to Ponder, putting her hand to her face, as if to ask, is Candace breathing?
"Oh, I'm not sure. I touched her face and it's just sweaty," Ponder says.
"She's not answered. We could do this forever, just stay here."
Another minute and Watkins decides Jeane must leave the room. Candace is able to pick up on your sorrow, Watkins says. Jeane goes to an upstairs room to watch on a TV monitor. She cries. Watkins joins Jeane, encouraging her not to give up, and then goes back to the rebirthing room.
Watkins asks McDaniel and St. Clair to leave six minutes later. They join Jeane to watch the session on the monitor, taking Tammy with them. Watkins and Ponder are alone in the room with Candace, bundled in the sheet, still and quiet. They work for four more minutes, then decide to check on her. They unwrap her.
"Oh, there she is," Watkins says. "She's sleeping in her vomit." Candace doesn't move. She's lying on the floor, still and quiet. "Candace?" Watkins says. "Candace," she repeats, louder.
It's 10:53 a.m. and the videotape continues to roll. Jeane runs into the room. Candace is not breathing. Her face is blue. Jeane and Ponder start CPR. Watkins calls 911 at 10:56 a.m.
The paramedics arrive in 10 minutes. McDaniel meets Larry Ferree and Joe Yordt of the Evergreen Fire Protection District at the front door. He tells the medics that Candace was left alone for five minutes during a rebirthing session and she isn't breathing.
Ferree and Yordt find Candace on the floor. Two women are doing CPR. A sheet is at Candace's feet, there's vomit on her face and a smear of blood around her nose. She's blue and cool to the touch. Both paramedics think, she's been "down" - unconscious and possibly not breathing - for some time. The two men cut off her T-shirt, do chest compressions, wipe the bile from around her lips and perform mouth-to-mouth.
"No heartbeat, no nothing," Ferree says. Ferree finds her pupils fixed and dilated, with some redness in her eyes, often a sign of asphyxia.
By 11:20 a.m. they have a faint pulse, so they put Candace on a backboard to transfer her to the Flight for Life helicopter.
The little girl who dreamed of being murdered survives the night on life support at Children's Hospital.
But at 9 a.m. the following day, Dr. Kurt Stenmark pronounces her brain dead. Candace dies from brainstem herniation and cerebral edema, brought on by mechanical asphyxiation.
She was smothered, the doctor wrote, when she "was restrained during therapy session."
Watkins, Ponder, St. Clair and McDaniel have pleaded not guilty in Candace's death. Only St. Clair's lawyer has commented.
H. Michael Steinberg said St. Clair was ordered to participate in the rebirthing by Watkins.
"She trusted Connell Watkins," he said. "Connell is someone she's known for 10 years, who's an icon in the attachment disorder community." A month of secrecy
Durham, N.C. - Candace was dead, and no one back in her hometown understood what had gone so wrong. Once again a shroud of secrecy covered her. Jeane tried to keep it that way.
Sorrow, mingled with confusion, set in among Candace's playmates and the people in Jeane's church. How did Candace die in Colorado? Was there some sort of accident on a horse? One rumor said she had been hurt while running at a camp.
"It was so sad. This little life was swept away and it was so hush hush," said Ave Lachiewicz, the pediatrician.
Candace's entire fourth-grade class at Easley Elementary attended her memorial service. There were balloons and songs and poems. Jeane hid her swollen eyes behind sunglasses and stayed away from the crowd.
A keepsake was handed out, a cream-colored card covered with black and white pictures of Candace, laughing, riding horses, blowing bubbles. The images showed such a playful, lively girl.
The Rev. David McBriar talked of Candace's life. There was no mention of how she died.
Jeane's friends and family surrounded her, guarded her inside the big house on Georgia Avenue. There was no talk of Candace's death, even as neighbors brought over cakes and casseroles.
It took a month before the truth hit Durham. When the therapists and two assistants were arrested on May 18 and May 19, it made big headlines. Candace's school picture - tentative smile, plaid blouse, hair a little messy - flashed across television screens.
Parents of Candace's classmates tried to shield their children from news accounts, bewildering and unbelievable to people in this self-proclaimed City of Medicine.
Candace's little protege, Victoria, saw her friend's picture on TV one night.
"There's Candace," Victoria said. "She's made the TV, Mama." Victoria didn't know why her friend was on TV. She still doesn't understand it. Her family tells Victoria that Candace is God's special angel now.
The pediatricians and psychologists who had treated Candace - Jeane's colleagues at Duke - were equally stunned. "We all sat around and tried to think, 'Could it have been different?"' Lachiewicz said.
Dr. John March, the director of Duke's program in Child and Adolescent Anxiety Disorders, knew of Jeane's struggles. He declined comment because he's been called as a witness in the criminal case.
Duke University won't comment about Candace or Jeane. The Jefferson County District Attorney's office witness list includes 11 North Carolina physicians and mental health therapists who may be called to testify.
Lachiewicz, one of the few professionals to speak out, now says she would have advised Jeane to get Candace into a more traditional therapy. Talk, play games.
"If I knew she was taking this kid to some wackos in Colorado, I'd say, 'Don't do it."'
Candace's problems were no different than you'd expect from a 10-year-old who'd been bounced around in foster care, she said. She thought Jeane had not allowed Candace enough time to overcome her problems.
"She wasn't the most damaged kid. I think this kid could've made it." "Where's my baby? Where's my Candace?"
Catawba County, N.C. - At the end of a muddy lane in Hickory, N.C., sits a gray trailer, its aluminum panels streaked with mold.
Laundry hangs from a line strung across a tiny wood porch - a baby's blue jumper, women's white cotton underpants and pink towels that haven't dried in the thick humidity.
It's 10 a.m., Friday, Sept. 22. Autumn has arrived, and five months and three days have passed since the warm, clear spring day when Candace was suffocated near the snow-capped mountains of Colorado.
Angie Elmore, now 29, had clung to the hope that Candace would someday come back to her. Angie had always figured out a way to get back to her mama, and she believed Candace would, too.
No one had bothered to tell Angie the truth.
Three water-soaked wooden stairs lead up to the trailer door, which shakes when knocked. After several tries, a sleepy face appears, eyes squinting at the light.
Angie is still in her red flannel nightgown and barefoot.
She's asked if she's Angie Elmore. Do you have a daughter named Candace? Yes, yes, she says, grabbing a picture from a nearby ledge. See here, here's my baby, Candace. She points to the taller of the two girls in the clear plastic frame.
"Where's my baby? Where's my Candace? Oh my God." She begins to cry and covers her mouth.
There's been a terrible accident in Colorado, Angie is told. Candace died during therapy.
Rebirthing? A blanket? Pillows on her head? She's crying and confused, standing in her trailer's living room.
"They smothered her," Angie finally says, her voice low and cold, understanding.
"That was my daughter. How did she die from a blanket?" She pushes the hair from her wet face. "Isn't that why they say don't put pillows on babies, don't put bags by them?
"It's stupid, it's stupid. You don't put a child under a pillow and push on her."
The news of Candace's death had finally come home.
Despite being gone for five years, Candace is present in her mother's trailer. Here is the plastic floral photo album, happy pictures at Halloween, Christmas, visitations at social services. Here's Candace and the new doll she received at her third birthday party at the battered women's shelter. Here's her favorite toy, Belle from Beauty and The Beast. Here is her picture with her sister, Chelsea, caught holding hands just before they were taken away.
Angie's story tumbles out, the troubles with Todd Elmore, the "nitpicking" by social services, and always, the back-and-forth dance between her and her mother. Even as she's blaming her mother for her hellish childhood, Angie gasps and borrows a cell phone, summoning Mary Davis to the trailer, needing to tell "Mama."
As Mary drives up, Angie runs out barefoot and blurts out the news. Mary starts to scream.
"No. No. No. No. Not Candace. Not Candy. Not Candy. Not Candy Doll." The two make it back to the porch, Mary starting to faint, Angie sitting down to hold her. Arms around each other, both burning cigarettes, they sob. "Candace was going through exactly what I went through," Angie says. "All I ever wanted was my mom. Candace was exactly the same way." Suddenly, Mary thinks of David Davis, her husband. "Oh, this will kill David," she says.
"But Mama, it was my child," Angie says, trying to retrieve her mother's attention. Mary calls him at work on the cell phone. He hurries to the trailer and is met by the crying women.
As the rainy day fades into evening, he sits on Angie's couch and talks about how Mary and Angie both had "100 percent desire" to be good mothers. Trouble was, he says, they were never taught how.
"It would be like me wanting to go to a hospital and save somebody's life. I would have to have somebody show me how to do it."
Maybe Candace wasn't always the best behaved child, he says, "but she did know how to love."
Surely, that adoptive mother knew that Candace wasn't trying to be mean, Mary says. "The reason why Candace wouldn't let her hold her is because Candace wanted her mother and her grandmother and her grandfather." Angie has lived in the trailer eight months, since the breakup with her boyfriend, Larry Menegay. This is where, as a single mom, she brought her sixth child, Andrew. He was born April 1 - 18 days before his half-sister's death. Larry is the father of Andrew and Angie's fifth child, Larry Jr., 4. Andrew's baby bed takes over a living room corner. The trailer is an odd mix of little girl and old lady. Battered furniture, ceramic figures of dolls and animals and decoupage placards with flowery messages. "May you be blessed in all that you do. May all your dreams and wishes come true," one reads.
Losing the Elmore children wasn't the end of Angie's contact with Lincoln County Social Services.
One morning in April 1999, she drove Larry to work and left baby Larry sleeping at home. A neighbor found the toddler walking along the roadway. It was raining. Angie and Larry spent 20 days in jail for misdemeanor child abuse. They now share custody.
Angie says she pays to this day for her mistake with Little Larry. Over and over, Angie says she loves all her children. Losing them, well, it was a mixture of her own mistakes and what she believes is an overzealous social services department.
"I didn't give my rights away, they took them," she says. "There's a big difference."
All Angie was told about Candace's siblings is that they were adopted together "near" where Candace was adopted.
Angie and Mary learn of Candace's nightmare, the one about being thrown from a two-story window, maybe by her birth mother.
'No," Angie says, "I've never done anything like that."
They remember once sending Candace and Chelsea to the second floor room for misbehaving. Angie and Mary checked on them, finding the girls standing on a window sill. "We told them, 'Please don't do that. Do you know that would have killed you had you hit that cement?"' Mary says.
Angie says she knows why Candace wouldn't bond with Jeane. "You only have one birth. I'm her mama. What I did was God's will," she says. "What (Jeane) did was cuckoo. She played God with my child." Then she directs her anger toward the social workers.
"I told them, 'If you take her away from me, it'll kill her.' And that's exactly what they did."
Five charged in death
Evergreen - Candace Newmaker's death is the first attributed to psychotherapy practice in Colorado, state officials say.
Connell Watkins and Julie Ponder, the two therapists, and their assistants, Jack McDaniel and Brita St. Clair, have been charged with "knowingly or recklessly" committing child abuse resulting in death. They face prison sentences of 16 to 48 years.
The four have pleaded not guilty. Jefferson County District Judge Jane Tidball has ordered one trial for Watkins and Ponder, and a second for St. Clair and McDaniel. Both are set for next year.
Jeane Newmaker was charged with child abuse resulting in death, a lesser felony. If convicted, she faces four to 16 years in prison. She surrendered May 24 and was photographed for a mug shot, looking stoic in wire-rimmed glasses and a navy blouse. She is scheduled to enter her plea Nov. 13. The centerpiece of the case - the videotape of the rebirthing session - has been placed under a gag order. Jefferson County Court Judge Charles Hoppen feared a public outcry if it was released.
Watkins and Ponder wanted the tape to demonstrate rebirthing within the attachment community. Watkins often taped her sessions to highlight moments of success - and value - to the parents who had paid for it. Now, the Candace tape will be an indictment of rebirthing at the trials.
Some Jefferson County law enforcement officers agreed with charging Jeane, while others argued that she had been punished enough, that she had lost a daughter, every parent's nightmare.
And certainly, she faced a horrible task when she returned home to Durham without Candace.
Jeane's large brick home in her pretty neighborhood is quieter now, empty of Candace's laughter and her tantrums.
"Probably there's a haunting there," said neighbor Margaret Addison. "Every room in that house had some Candace in it."
A call for "Candace's law"
State law required erasing the brief history of Candace Tiara Elmore when she was adopted, but traces can be found.
Back in Lincoln County, records are kept in a small courthouse annex on Main Street. Up on the second floor, big, cloth-bound record books line a desk. Elmore. Candace. Born Nov. 19, 1989. In Lincolnton, one book entry says. When asked to produce the document, a clerk glances at the gray record book to find the number, then walks to a smaller room. She returns carrying a book with the birth certificates for babies born in Lincoln County.
Candace is gone.
The clerk says her certificate has been sent to Raleigh, the state capital, where it's sealed, and cannot be viewed without a judge's order. No one is supposed to know that Candace Tiara Elmore began her life here with a mother named Angela and a father named Todd.
She has a new birth certificate. It says her name is Candace Elizabeth Newmaker and she was born in Durham. It, too, is filed in Raleigh.
Filed 1,548 miles away in Denver is Candace's death certificate. It says her body was sent to Colorado Cremation Services.
Only a disjointed paper trail and pictures survive her. Photos showing her smile, sometimes shy, sometimes brave, are found in two North Carolina towns, pasted into albums and fitted into frames.
As the criminal case against her accused killers proceeds, people who knew Candace have questions.
Why would Jeane Newmaker, a trained medical professional, place her trust in unlicensed therapists? And why would she stand by while her child begged for air?
Why would all five adults ignore the common wisdom that binding a child in a sheet and covering her face with pillows could be dangerous, even deadly? Who is really protected by confidentiality laws that shield government decisions to remove children from their parents? The children? Or the judges and social workers allowed to make those calls in secret?
And what of Colorado's rules and regulations governing therapists, who exert life and death control over children? Are they strong enough? Some states have much tougher laws.
Wade Marlett, Candace's cathechism teacher, is among those in Durham who are angry and confused about Candace's death.
"To what degree do we have the right to make people in our own image?" he demands.
Marlett would like to see a "Candace's Law." It would outlaw rebirthing, or any restraining therapy.
"I just want to keep something like this from happening again." Back in Hickory, N.C., Angie Elmore is searching for a place to put her sorrow, to somehow touch her daughter one last time. David and Mary Davis are planning a memorial service. Candace's first family needs to say goodbye.
As it turned out, of course, they had said their goodbye years ago. The child judged to be in imminent danger was handed off to a new mother, one who wanted to give her the world.
But Candace Tiara could not quite become Candace Elizabeth. Instead, her life was erased.
This is the story of that life, a story Candace couldn't tell.