FOSTER FATHER IS ORDERED TO PRISON IN DEATH OF GIRL

Relates to:
Date: 1997-06-17
Source: Deseret News

A registered nurse accused of killing his foster daughter while using a controversial "holding therapy" was ordered to prison Friday.

Donald Lee Tibbets, 37, says he will be forever tormented by what happened in July 1995 to his foster daughter, Krystal Tibbets.The 3-year-old died a day after her father used the technique designed to provoke a child into a rage and draw out repressed sources of anger. Tibbets had learned the method from the Family & Attachment Center, a company that teaches therapeutic interventions for mentally distressed children.

"He was steered into this. He was taught this would cure the ills of his daughter and the ills of the world," said defense attorney Ed Brass.

Prosecutors said Tibbets admitted he had performed the holding technique by placing the weight of his body and fist on the abdomen and chest of the child. He told police Krystal vomited during the therapy.

But Tibbets did not call for paramedics even though the girl had vomited and her lips had turned blue. His wife eventually called 911 from a different room after realizing something was wrong, according to charges filed in 3rd District Court.

"What I did was shameful. What I did was horrendous. What I did has caused immeasurable consequences to my family and the community. I'm horrified at what happened," Tibbets told Judge Homer F. Wilkinson before he was sentenced.

He said he believed the therapy had worked for the girl, however. She came to his Midvale home with extreme emotional outbursts, he said. The child's physician agreed the girl was improving, Brass said.

"She was an empty shell when she came to us. There was no love there, she couldn't look you in the eye. But she improved," Tibbets said. "Now, the person who blossomed is an empty shell again, because she's in a grave because of me."

Tibbets was originally charged with child abuse homicide, a second-degree felony. He pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of child abuse homicide, a third-degree felony.

Brass asked the judge to further reduce the count to a class A misdemeanor and give his client probation - a deal prosecutors didn't object to. But Wilkinson said Tibbets should have known better because he was a registered nurse.

"It appeared to me there was a serious situation taking place and (Tibbets) should have recognized it. He has time to alleviate it but didn't do so," Wilkinson said.

He ordered Tibbets to serve an indeterminate term of zero to five years in prison and to pay full restitution for her medical costs.

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