exposing the dark side of adoption
Register Log in

Midvale Foster Father Charged With Homicide in Death of Girl, 3


Author: Nancy Hobbs THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE; The Salt Lake Tribune

Thirteen-year-old Justin Adams remembers seeing the blank stare of his 3-year-old foster sister in July and reporting to his foster father, Donald Lee Tibbets, that the toddler ``looked dead.''

But the Midvale man assured the boy that Krystal Ann, the Tibbetses' adopted daughter, was all right.

As Tibbets was lying on top of the girl to restrain her temper tantrum, he told Justin that the girl ``just goes off into her own world'' during ``therapy'' sessions administered by Tibbets or his wife Julia to help Krystal release pent-up anger.

This time, however, the controversial ``holding therapy'' went on too long, and the weight of Tibbets' body on top of the 35-pound girl caused her to suffocate, according to Salt Lake County district attorneys.

They charged the father, who is a registered nurse, with child abuse-homicide for recklessly inflicting the fatal injuries.

In a preliminary hearing Tuesday, Salt Lake Circuit Court Judge Stephen Henriod agreed the prosecution ``more than met its burden'' in showing that Tibbets should be bound over to district court for trial on the second-degree felony charge, which carries a maximum of 15 years in prison.

Tibbets' attorneys asked that the charge be reduced to a third-degree felony, claiming the defendent never was warned of risks involved with the therapy and, in fact, had had safety concerns about the therapy's use after several months discounted by the prescribing therapist.

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 disorder'' and therefore being unable to bond with caregivers because of frequent moves from home to home.

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.

The latter was apparently used on Krystal, as Edward Leis, the assistant medical examiner reported ``blunt-force'' bruising to her abdomen.

That concurred with Justin's account of Tibbets pushing his fist into the toddler's stomach ``far enough that I could see her rib cage.''

Given the evidence -- especially Justin's eyewitness account, in which he recalled Krystal ``puking and kicking'' one moment and quiet, pale and staring the next -- Henriod said Tibbets failed to stop the treatment when it was obvious he should, and then further erred in not calling immediately for emergency assistance.

The trial is scheduled Dec. 8.

1995 Nov 15