Water-intoxication homicide upheld

Date: 2008-07-23
Source: sltrib.com

Water-intoxication homicide upheld

Up to 15 years in prison

Mother said the forced intake was a way to get her daughter to bond

July 23, 2008
By Pamela Manson
The Salt Lake Tribune

The Utah Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the child-abuse homicide conviction of Jennete Killpack in the water-intoxication death of her 4-year-old daughter.

The unanimous decision also affirmed Killpack's sentence of up to 15 years in prison for the second-degree felony.

The 32-year-old Springville woman had asked for probation, but 4th District Judge Claudia Laycock imposed time behind bars based on Killpack's refusal to accept responsibility for her actions.

Cassandra Killpack died June 9, 2002, after being forced to drink at least a gallon of water, which caused her sodium levels to drop. That drop, in turn, triggered fatal swelling of the brain.

Killpack and her husband, who adopted Cassandra when she was 21 months old, claimed she suffered from reactive attachment disorder and had severe behavioral problems. The two, who have four biological children, said the water treatment was a way to get the girl to bond with her adoptive mother.

But prosecutors said Killpack had on other occasions bitten Cassandra on the face, hit her in the head with a metal spoon hard enough to draw blood and choked her. They said that on the day she died, the girl was forced to drink water because she had taken a sip of her baby sister's juice.

Killpack was convicted by a jury in 2005. Husband Richard Killpack, now 40, who was at work when most of the abuse occurred, was acquitted of the homicide charge.

In arguments before the high court earlier this year, defense attorney Michael Esplin said jurors should have been told Utah law gives parents the right to choose the kind of medical care they want for their children. Esplin said Killpack chose "water treatment" instead of psychiatry or drugs for her daughter.

The Supreme Court justices, though, said nothing in the law concerning the right of parents to decide how to raise their children "can be construed as a defense against child abuse."



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