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Girl dies in Colorado after controversial therapy


'Army of Mary' still active despite banishment in '80s

Bob Harvey


DENVER (Reuters) - Police Thursday arrested three people for conducting a controversial "rebirthing" therapy on a 10-year-old girl who died after being wrapped in a blanket despite telling them she could not breathe and was going to die.

The procedure, aimed at helping children who cannot form bonds with their parents by making them "relive" birth, was captured on closed circuit television on April 18 while the girl's horrified mother watched in a nearby room, according to the Jefferson County sheriff's office.

The girl, Candace Newmaker of North Carolina, told the therapists seven times that she could not breathe and said six times that she was going to die.

But instead of unwrapping her, the therapists said "you got to push hard if you want to be born -- or do you want to stay in there and die?"

The girl, who was adopted four years ago and had been treated for Attention Deficit Disorder and depression, lost consciousness during the procedure and was rushed to a local hospital where she died the next day.

Blanket Is Supposed To Represent The Womb

In the procedure the child was completely wrapped in a blue, flannel blanket that simulated the womb. Large pillows were placed around her. Counselors then pressed in on the pillows to simulate contractions and to motivate the girl to push her way out of the blanket through a twisted end of the blanket at the top of the girl's head.

Brita St. Clair, Jack McDaniel and Julie Ponder, employees at Connell Watkins and Associates, a counseling office in Evergreen, Colo. were arrested for "child abuse resulting in death," the sheriff's office said.

An arrest warrant was issued for a fourth person, Connell Watkins, who ran the counseling office that specialized in attachment therapy for children. Attorneys for Ponder and Watkins were not available to comment.

According to an investigator who viewed the tape there was a 20-minute lapse between the time the girl's last breath could be heard to the time she was unwrapped.

2000 May 18