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Dad: Girl Killed By Drinking Water Was Sneaky


Dad: Girl Killed By Drinking Water Was Sneaky

Parents Charged With Child Abuse Homicide

POSTED: 11:33 a.m. EDT September 18, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY -- A couple charged with killing their adopted daughter by forcing her to drink large amounts of water said Wednesday they were treating her "severe problems of sneaking and lying" with rules to promote family bonding.

Richard Killpack, 34, and Jennete Killpack, 26, of Springville, were charged Monday with child abuse homicide and child abuse in the death of their 4-year-old daughter, Cassandra Killpack (pictured, left).

Richard Killpack said under rules suggested by therapists, they required Cassandra to ask for everything, including food and water, "to help her understand dependency, that her mom and dad loved her."

"She had a very severe problem of sneaking and lying ... to the point of even damage to herself," he said Wednesday on CBS' "The Early Show."

"They made the suggestion that whatever she sneaked or wanted, that you would do that in excess," he said.

On ABC's "Good Morning America" show, Killpack said that in June, Cassandra had snuck 8 ounces of Kool-Aid, and that in order to cure her of lying and sneaking, therapists at Cascade Center for Family Growth in Orem, Utah, suggested that she be given water.

"One of the suggestions that they made is if she sneaks certain things, that you should go ahead and give her that substance and let her know, Hey, this doesn't need to be sneaked. In fact, we'll give it to you in excess," Killpack said on the show.

He explained that it wasn't "water therapy" but simply a method of deterrence.

After about 12 ounces, he said, she threw temper tantrums, and then followed their request to do exercises and take a time out.

"She started to complain her head was dizzy. I asked her to come over to me, and she basically passed out in our arms," he said on NBC's "Today" show.

"Her death was a tragic, tragic accident," Jennete Killpack said.

But prosecutors said evidence shows Cassandra was forced to drink so much water it lowered the concentration of sodium in her blood, causing fatal brain swelling. The Killpacks' lawyer, Philip Danielson, said unbeknownst to her parents, Cassandra's sodium level was depleted before she drank the water.

"We dispute the amount of water that Cassandra ingested and that's going to be one of the many things we dispute," prosecutor David Sturgill sadi. "The quantity and the method in which the Killpacks administered the water is going to be disputed and we strongly dispute it was simply 12 ounces of water."

Sherry Ragan, chief of Utah County Attorney's criminal division, said it probably took several quarts of water to cause Cassandra's death.

"The explanation they've given for the amount of water that they gave her does not fit the medical evidence," she said Wednesday on NBC.

She also said the parents forced Cassandra to drink the water even while she was gagging and tied her arms back. She said cuts and bruises were found around the girl's mouth.

The director of the Cascade Center for Family Growth, Larry Van Bloem, denied that his therapists promoted forced water drinking. "No, we never recommend it," he told "Good Morning America."

In June, Springville police searched the Cascade Center for therapy records on the 4-year-old girl, but authorities said the center does not share responsibility for Cassandra's death.

The Killpacks have two other daughters, one adopted. Both have been placed in foster care. The couple were awaiting a court summons.

The charge of child abuse was filed because they involved their older daughter in the "discipline and abuse of Cassandra" and she suffered severe emotional harm, Ragan said.

The Killpacks called 911 on June 9 when Cassandra was having difficulty breathing following the punishment. She died early the next day.

Danielson said Cassandra was physically and sexually abused before being adopted and wasn't bonding with her new parents. He said the Cascade Center promoted forced water drinking for children with attachment disorder, believing it teaches children to seek out their parents for relief and comfort.

Richard Killpack said they had tried several methods for nearly three years to help Cassandra's "mental conditions."

"We loved our daughter," he said. "We gave her the best treatment we could. We feel very sad about it."

In October, Jeane Newmaker was convicted in Colorado in the death of her 10-year-old adopted daughter, who suffocated after being wrapped by therapists in blankets and pillows in what was called a "rebirthing session." Newmaker was sentenced to four years probation and 400 hours of community service.

2002 Sep 18