Lenient term is sought for mom

Date: 2005-10-20

Lenient term is sought for mom

Let Killpack spend days at home, nights in prison, lawyer says

By Jesse Hyde
Deseret Morning News
Published: October 20, 2005

PROVO — Jennete Killpack's defense attorney says he will ask a judge to allow the Springville mother to stay at home with her children as part of her sentence for killing her 4-year-old daughter.

Killpack's lawyer, Mike Esplin, said the 29-year-old mother, who will be sentenced in December, did not mean to hurt her daughter.

"We're going to ask for a lenient sentence," Esplin said. "It was not an intentional act. There's no deterrent effect. By putting Jennete in prison you're not going to save a lot of kids from drinking too much water."

Esplin said he will push for a sentence that allows Jennete Killpack, who was found guilty last week of child-abuse homicide, to be at home with her four children while her husband is at work and serve prison time on nights and weekends.

"Despite the jury's findings, I think she's basically a good mother who loves her kids," Esplin said. "We would want something that allows her to still be a mom."

Utah County prosecutors say Jennete Killpack tied her daughter's hands behind her back and forced her to drink about a gallon of water for taking a sibling's drink on June 9, 2002. The Killpacks say they only gave the girl about 20 ounces, and that they do not know how she died.

Last week, an eight-member jury convicted Jennete Killpack of the second-degree felony that carries a sentence of one to 15 years in prison. Richard Killpack, who prosecutors say helped force-feed his daughter water, was acquitted.

On Sunday, five of the eight jurors told the Deseret Morning News they would have convicted Richard Killpack of child abuse if they could have, meaning both parents could have possibly served prison time.

But the only charge the Killpacks faced was child abuse homicide. One of the prosecutors in the case, Dave Sturgill, said there was no evidence or allegations that Richard Killpack had committed other child abuse against his daughter.

"I can live with what the jury did," Sturgill said. "The more I think about it, the more I think about the evidence they saw, I can understand what the jury did."

Sturgill said he saw Richard Killpack as a willing accomplice in his daughter's death. According to the Killpacks' testimony, Richard Killpack was gone for most of the incident prosecutors say led to Cassandra Killpack's death, and that when he returned home he first tried to help his wife force-feed the girl water and then told her to stop.

Esplin said Jennete Killpack was probably convicted because of prior incidents of abuse she admitted to during the trial — including choking and hitting her daughter.

Esplin said those prior acts should not have been allowed as evidence during the trial. He said he will not consider an appeal until after Jennete Killpack's Dec. 6 sentencing.

"You have to respect the jury. They listened to the evidence. I'm biased, of course, and I disagree, but I'm not knocking their decision. I don't have to like it, though," he said.

E-mail: jhyde@desnews.com

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