FATHER TO STAND TRIAL IN `HOLDING THERAPY' DEATH OF 3-YEAR-OLD GIRL

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Date: 1995-11-16
Source: Deseret News

Donald Lee Tibbets of Midvale was bound over Tuesday to stand trial in the death of his 3-year-old daughter, whom he had restrained using a controversial "holding therapy" technique.

Third Circuit Court Judge Stephen Henriod agreed that the prosecution showed enough evidence to send Tibbets to trial on charges he recklessly inflicted the fatal injuries in July.The second-degree felony child abuse-homicide charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. The trial is set for Dec. 8.

Tibbets' attorneys asked that the charge be reduced to a third-degree felony, saying the defendant never was warned of risks involved with the therapy. In fact, Tibbets, a registered nurse, had had safety concerns about the therapy's use, but the prescribing therapist had discounted them.

Henriod denied the request.

"Holding therapy," also known as "rage-reduction therapy," is often used on foster or adopted children who have been diagnosed as suffering attachment disorders and therefore are unable to bond with caregivers.

The therapy involves restraining a child and provoking him or her into a rage to expose underlying sources of anger. That sometimes involves shouting in the child's face, tickling the bottoms of feet, or applying physical pressure.

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The latter was apparently used on Krystal Tibbets, the defendant's adopted daughter. Edward Leis, the assistant medical examiner reported "blunt-force" bruising to her abdomen.

A 13-year-old foster child who witnessed Krystal's death testified that he watched Tibbets lying on Krystal to restrain her and pressing his fist hard enough into her stomach that he could see her ribs.

The boy said he told Tibbets he thought the toddler looked dead.

Tibbets assured the boy that she was all right, and that the girl often "`just goes off into her own world"' during therapy sessions.

Salt Lake County prosecutors alleged that that time, the therapy went on too long, and the weight of Tibbets' body on top of the 35-pound girl caused her to suffocate.

Judge Henriod ruled that Tibbets failed to stop the treatment when it was obvious he should, and then further erred by not calling immediately for emergency assistance.

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