Dad: Girl Killed By Drinking Water Was Sneaky

Date: 2002-09-18

Dad: Girl Killed By Drinking Water Was Sneaky

Parents Charged With Child Abuse Homicide

POSTED: 11:33 a.m. EDT September 18, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY -- A couple charged with killing their adopted daughter by forcing her to drink large amounts of water said Wednesday they were treating her "severe problems of sneaking and lying" with rules to promote family bonding.

Richard Killpack, 34, and Jennete Killpack, 26, of Springville, were charged Monday with child abuse homicide and child abuse in the death of their 4-year-old daughter, Cassandra Killpack (pictured, left).

Richard Killpack said under rules suggested by therapists, they required Cassandra to ask for everything, including food and water, "to help her understand dependency, that her mom and dad loved her."

"She had a very severe problem of sneaking and lying ... to the point of even damage to herself," he said Wednesday on CBS' "The Early Show."

"They made the suggestion that whatever she sneaked or wanted, that you would do that in excess," he said.

On ABC's "Good Morning America" show, Killpack said that in June, Cassandra had snuck 8 ounces of Kool-Aid, and that in order to cure her of lying and sneaking, therapists at Cascade Center for Family Growth in Orem, Utah, suggested that she be given water.

"One of the suggestions that they made is if she sneaks certain things, that you should go ahead and give her that substance and let her know, Hey, this doesn't need to be sneaked. In fact, we'll give it to you in excess," Killpack said on the show.

He explained that it wasn't "water therapy" but simply a method of deterrence.

After about 12 ounces, he said, she threw temper tantrums, and then followed their request to do exercises and take a time out.

"She started to complain her head was dizzy. I asked her to come over to me, and she basically passed out in our arms," he said on NBC's "Today" show.

"Her death was a tragic, tragic accident," Jennete Killpack said.

But prosecutors said evidence shows Cassandra was forced to drink so much water it lowered the concentration of sodium in her blood, causing fatal brain swelling. The Killpacks' lawyer, Philip Danielson, said unbeknownst to her parents, Cassandra's sodium level was depleted before she drank the water.

"We dispute the amount of water that Cassandra ingested and that's going to be one of the many things we dispute," prosecutor David Sturgill sadi. "The quantity and the method in which the Killpacks administered the water is going to be disputed and we strongly dispute it was simply 12 ounces of water."

Sherry Ragan, chief of Utah County Attorney's criminal division, said it probably took several quarts of water to cause Cassandra's death.

"The explanation they've given for the amount of water that they gave her does not fit the medical evidence," she said Wednesday on NBC.

She also said the parents forced Cassandra to drink the water even while she was gagging and tied her arms back. She said cuts and bruises were found around the girl's mouth.

The director of the Cascade Center for Family Growth, Larry Van Bloem, denied that his therapists promoted forced water drinking. "No, we never recommend it," he told "Good Morning America."

In June, Springville police searched the Cascade Center for therapy records on the 4-year-old girl, but authorities said the center does not share responsibility for Cassandra's death.

The Killpacks have two other daughters, one adopted. Both have been placed in foster care. The couple were awaiting a court summons.

The charge of child abuse was filed because they involved their older daughter in the "discipline and abuse of Cassandra" and she suffered severe emotional harm, Ragan said.

The Killpacks called 911 on June 9 when Cassandra was having difficulty breathing following the punishment. She died early the next day.

Danielson said Cassandra was physically and sexually abused before being adopted and wasn't bonding with her new parents. He said the Cascade Center promoted forced water drinking for children with attachment disorder, believing it teaches children to seek out their parents for relief and comfort.

Richard Killpack said they had tried several methods for nearly three years to help Cassandra's "mental conditions."

"We loved our daughter," he said. "We gave her the best treatment we could. We feel very sad about it."

In October, Jeane Newmaker was convicted in Colorado in the death of her 10-year-old adopted daughter, who suffocated after being wrapped by therapists in blankets and pillows in what was called a "rebirthing session." Newmaker was sentenced to four years probation and 400 hours of community service.


Probation for killing a child?

Probation & community service for killing a child? I wish I knew if dangerous pseudo-'therapies' that r non-scientific have been outlawed. I would like to know if that re-birthing baloney has been outlawed. A child's life shouldn't ever be endangered like that.

RAD again

some quack said the kid had RAD, so the officals see her has damaged goods and it was probably okay to kill her in their eyes; after all they were just doing what the quack therapist said :(

Practise/sale of non-licensed child 'therapy' should be a felony

For the protection of children, there needs to be a federal law passed against all non-licensed practise and sale of 'child therapy.' This would also protect any well-meaning-but-naive parents who think that a service must be legitimate if someone is allowed by law to sell it in America. For all of the kids who have been traumatized, damaged, had whatever problem they might have had made worse or added to, and for all children who've actually been Killed by things such as 'therapeutic' re-birthing, forced this, forced that, physically-punishing boot-camps, etc: this stuff needs to be OUTLAWED once and for all. Overly pro-corporate, overly pro-business, overly pro-anything-for-a-profit, short-term-gain, deregulatory, insufficient-oversight attitudes have contributed HEAVILY to the child-endangerment problems in our country.

Anything involved with child-protection should be considered an inherently governmental function that is not up for someone making a profit off of. Abuse of anything is never more certain or more egregious than when huge profits stand to be made from something. Corruption never ceases to follow. Look at the case of the 2 judges in Philadelphia who were disbarred and sent to prison for taking kickbacks for every child they would send to a for-profit juvenile detention company. How many children were damaged from being treated like throw-away criminals because someone stood to make money if a child was sent to juvenile 'jail' instead of actually helped in some way and treated like a human being?

Rinda: by the way

Rinda: by the way, I always take note when I hear or see a nice name that I've never heard or seen before. Your name falls in that category. It's unique and beautiful. :)

Homo-hating Christian Bigot parents also need to be screened out

I agree, missy, but we are in a bind.

A lot of that holding therapy/RAD attachment crap that killed little Cassandra can easily be categorized as "ministry" when a theological veneer is put on it (it already is) so one runs into 1st Amendment issues. I'm not sure if you saw an earlier post of mine on disgraced conservative Christian child sexuality expert George Rekers of gay-adoption-is-evil/"trips to Europe with my rentboy" fame. But holding therapy as practiced by that jacka@@ Thomas is the same as some of the most virulent forms of ex-gay "therapy", which is also directed at young people.

What do people think happens to queer adoptees and fosters in these environments? The method is the same, the application of the method is the same, the misanthropic, punitive view of children (especially as we bastards are easily cast as someone's material objects of punishment for their sins) and the already-born is the same, the result is the same: abused children, damaged adults. Or way worse, dead children.

One also runs into the problem of Christians who think anything licensed by a state or federal government means it's of the devil. So the issue would be, how to catch these people who go underground if we were to ever come up with safeguards to protect children from exactly these types of predators.

Yes, you're right - they need to be screened out.

The entire Abuse-of-Religion to cover up harming others is one of my issues - in other words it's one I take special interest in standing up against. I have lots of cases bookmarked that fall under that category. I think it's established law in the U.S. that a child can't be denied medical attention for 'faith'-of-parents reasons. There have been cases where a child's parents believe (ridiculously) that going to a doctor proves lack of faith, etc. They will allow their child to die before taking him or her to a doctor. The children of such people have been taken to a hospital against the parents' wishes and such parents have been prosecuted. If denying medical care to a child based on religious beliefs is against the law (which I think it is), I would think forcing quackery-'care' on them which could do actual harm could also be made illegal if it isn't already.

I didn't see the earlier post you did on George Rekers. I think the entire unlicensed-unscientific 'therapy' on children thing in any form is something that should be outlawed nationally because of how incredibly easily it lends itself to abuse and quackery and endangerment to children. I find the whole unscientific-attempts-to-undo-gayness-in-kids-by-force thing to be very disturbing. My heart suffers with those kids for not only what they go through while they're kids, but also for the affects it will have on most of them for Years after they become adults. I don't know what the answer is to that. There should at least be a program developed to help those specific kids in an 'unbrainwashing' kind of way once they're emancipated at the age of 17 or 18. I would think that any anti-gay program directed at individual kids would only come into play around the age of 15 or 16, so hopefully the couple of years of targeted anti-gay messaging could be overcome by a program targeted to help them upon their emancipation. For example, for years I have thought 'where's the safety-net organization to help aged-out foster kids transition to independence?' Does anyone know if such an organization exists? A similar organization could also do outreach to other specific groups of 17 & 18 year-olds on college campuses, for example.

Marion, as far as Christians who think anything licensed by a state or federal government is of the devil, people like me have our work cut out for us. No place is a more dangerous, thankless, or uncomfortable 'place' to work than at the intersection between politics and religion. There is legitimate room in America for people to raise their own children and not want 'the government' to 'raise' them. But I know the kind of thing you're referring to, and it's people going too far with the idea. And I haven't seen or heard of anything being done to address it. I do not hear or see Any oversight, for example, of the homeschooling movement. Homeschooling is something much, much, much too easy for a pedophile or other type of child abuser to hide behind in order to keep kids away from the 'prying' eyes of society in order to work their evil on kids. I haven't seen any national outrage or even serious-enough concern about this. There seems to be a lack of attention to this, a void, which people need to step into to address this.

Someone, some organization needs to step up about this. Sometimes it takes things to get pretty bad before that type of thing happens. For example, for years there was an unbalance in national radio whereby far-right-extreme, total-political 'talk' shows held sway. As someone put it back then (regarding the void of any left-wing shows to balance things out), there was "a whole big enough to drive a mack truck through" in the vacancy that was not being filled by any balancing left-wing talk shows. After a number of years like that, a concerted effort was finally made to create an answer to the far-right talk shows, and the 'Air America' radio channel was born (Ed Schultz, Randi Rhodes, etc.) No extreme or unbalance or isolationism is healthy for a society. There always need to be countering voices heard for the sake of well-rounded awareness. As far as the Christians who seem to want to take their kids away from American society completely and insist on seeing all government as evil, the job and duty of 'schooling' those parents to less extremism falls in large part on other Christians who know better. If anything, at least other Christians need to step up - in a concerted way - to protect children from Any danger that comes from any religious extreme - and to vigorously counter the extreme-headedness that too many of those parents read into the New Testament. Often, it's not what they themselves read into it, it's what politicians and others have told them to read into it. The extreme-headedness I'm referring to is encouraged and increased by far-right, 'no-government-is-good-government' politicians. Unfortunately I have not heard of any organization of enlightened Christians standing up to those other Christians - or 'schooling' them better -  in a concerted way, so I think there is currently a void - a 'whole large enough to drive a mack truck through' - that needs to be filled.

Give Inch/Take Mile

Part of the problem I see is, even if there were some test to screen out hate-based religious people 1- there are hate-based secular people, though probably to a much lesser degree but one is too many 2- they would just find some way to weasel their way around it because we are talking about ingrained sociopathy, the kind that passes home studies in the first place. Their only ethic is doing whatever the eff they want because they're the people of God and everything they do is sanctioned from on high.

I feel it's part of a larger issue of the consequences of living in a society that is at least trying to live up to those lofty democratic ideals we preach at everyone else in the world. The down side of that is, one must give equal access to those who are intent on eliminating you, at least when it comes to government. That's a liberal take on it, anyway. So many conservatives don't even believe in democracy, but will take advantage of the good will of others to get what they are out to get. But one can't write those kinds of families off, because it leaves the children vulnerable, and with no one. You're doing the work, you know what I'm talking about.

I don't think re-indoctrination into some other version of christianity is a lasting solution, though it may be a band aid. I'm not knocking band aids. Band aids help stop infection and aid in healing. But every Christian group claims they know better than the next. Loads of wars and battlefields of blood have been spilled over that very idea...we don't need more religious wars between Christians, they've done enough damage to each other and everyone around them already.

I think the best we can do -- and this comes directly out of my own experience -- is make sure the kids have a place to land when they either exit or get kicked out of it. I think this can be easily done, among say the major nonprofits/institutions with "youth" contingents. We could do an educational drive about how to make room for kids coming specifically from these kinds of situations. GLBT and women's advocacy nonprofits are a good model for this, since so many already deal overwhelmingly with people coming directly out of abusive religious environments. Less virulent forms of Christianity can also help the kids in the spare-the-rod sects transition into something better, or, staying in that and getting something out of it. That's part of my own experience, so I'm all for it. I chose to leave it altogether, but many people don't, or won't, and they have their reasons. Democratic society, that's the breaks.

love-hate relationship

I've grown very suspect of any group that preaches the power of love... especially when acts of forgiveness (deeds of some kind) are required from those who have been victimized by a crime.  Enter the world of the Ungrateful Adoptee... how dare we complain when such good-hearted God-fearing people are doing the lord's work by flushing sin from the world?  <rolling eyes>

It's always been so amazing to me the amount of hate living inside those who claim to love.  Ah to see that hate come alive in someone's eyes...but alas, that's my own memory/personal issue....

I think the best we can do -- and this comes directly out of my own experience -- is make sure the kids have a place to land when they either exit or get kicked out of it. I think this can be easily done, among say the major nonprofits/institutions with "youth" contingents.

There is a strange irony to all of this... I imagine the fathers of child migration and orphan trains thought the same. 

This place to land... outside Adoptionland... may I make a suggestion or two?  I'd like it to be equipped/staffed with folks not only familiar with F'ed up adoption issues... like falsified/sealed documents, abandonment, and profound child abuse...  I'd also like it if the dedicated staff members were not too hungry for fame or the almighty dollar.  Seems that's when we get most hurt, betrayed and screwed. 

Kerry- I agree- make it nonprofit, w/staff familiar w/the issues

Please don't let this idea die. Great organizations have been started over such conversations. And, like I think Marion said, maybe some organizations that already exist could be made interested in adding this specific type of component. I'm thinking that it would require a presentation be put together (at least an informational packet or brochure - or something) so a pitch could be made to some organizations to branch out into this area. Show them the great need that exists and what kind of help would be needed.

Forgive my laugh...

Been there, done that.

To date, not many take abuse in adoptive familes very seriously... and when it comes to the issue of doctored documentation... you'd be amazed how many wish to live in denial.

Marion - I agree - give kids a place to land.

Yes, give kids a place to land. Someplace or places that they are all made aware are available to them. :)

Pound Pup Legacy