Mom gets up to 15
Mom gets up to 15
HEIDI TOTH AND ANNA CHANG-YEN - Daily Herald
Jennete Killpack talked and laughed with supporters in the courtroom gallery while the judge took a recess on Friday, but hours later the scene was more tense as she was sentenced to prison for killing her adopted daughter.
Fourth District Judge Claudia Laycock sentenced Killpack to one to 15 years in the Utah State Prison for child abuse homicide, denying her request for probation. She was convicted of forcing her 4-year-old adopted daughter, Cassandra Killpack, in 2002 to drink an excessive amount of water, which caused brain swelling, liquid-filled lungs, unconsciousness and then death. Her husband, Richard Killpack, was found not guilty in October. Prosecutors said Cassandra was being punished for sneaking Kool-Aid.
"Just as she explained to the jury that she felt an obligation to teach Cassandra about consequences, there are also consequences today for her actions," Laycock said.
The courtroom was packed with supporters, and more than 40 friends, family members and neighbors wrote letters to the judge pleading for leniency. Defense attorney Michael Esplin urged the judge to suspend any jail or prison sentence or let Killpack serve the sentence in home confinement.
Before reading the sentence, Laycock discussed how she came to her decision, saying the power struggle between mother and daughter that led to Cassandra's death involved the denial of food and other privileges and a "torturous" week of therapy "which a kinder, more understanding mother would have terminated during the first session."
"I greatly fear that this child suffered far more than we will ever understand," she said.
Earlier in the day, Killpack sobbed as she begged Laycock to let her family stay together. "Please don't punish my children for something I did," she said, barely understandable through her sobs. "It had nothing to do with them."
Psychologist Monroe White said Killpack had accepted responsibility for what she did. In 2002, he recommended to the state that the Killpack's children be returned home because he thought they would be safe there. The children were returned. "She was very open, and I would even say eager, in terms of learning how to be a better parent."
Another psychologist, Paul Jenkins, who has treated two of the Killpack children, including the oldest daughter who was sometimes made to participate in Cassandra's abuse, said having their mother taken away from them would be an emotional hardship on the children. "If their mother were to leave for a significant period of time, that would create a number of issues for these children, adjustment issues, stress, depression, anxiety. Things they've already dealt with over the past few years, those things would be exacerbated."
But deputy county prosecutor Sherry Ragan called Killpack a "bad mother" and said her children would probably be better off without her. "She is a very dangerous person who remains a threat to children."
She said Killpack has taken no responsibility for her daughter's death, and her pleas to the judge to spare her family suffering were "just another example of her trying to place the blame on someone other than herself."
Esplin wanted Laycock to wait to sentence Killpack until a pre-sentencing report, which is used by judges when considering sentences, from Adult Probation and Parole is re-done. In a ruling, Laycock changed the aggravating and mitigating factors AP&P could consider in the report. She said the agency couldn't consider the fact that Cassandra was a child, and a particularly vulnerable victim, or her extensive injuries as aggravating factors. She said Killpack's strong family relationships and otherwise clean criminal record could be considered. The state argued that the author of the report said she still would not change her recommendation, despite the ruling.
Because Richard Killpack's mother died this week, Laycock allowed Jennete Killpack a week to take care of family affairs before she must report to the Utah State Prison. She must report to the Utah County Jail at 9 a.m. on Friday to be transported to the prison.