Parents charged in death of girl forced to drink water

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY -- A couple have been charged with killing their 4-year-old adopted daughter by forcing her to drink large amounts of water.

The girl's parents said she was given the water as part of a form of therapy to promote family bonding. But prosecutors disputed that and said she was being punished for drinking Kool-Aid.

Richard Killpack, 34, and Jennete Killpack, 26, of Springville, were charged Monday with child abuse homicide and child abuse. They were not arrested and are awaiting a court summons.

Prosecutors said Cassandra Killpack was forced to drink so much water it caused fatal brain swelling. She died June 10.

Cassandra was tied with her hands behind her back when she tried to fight off her parents, said Sherry Ragan, chief of Utah County Attorney's criminal division. Cuts and bruises were found around the girl's mouth.

Defense attorney Philip Danielson said Cassandra drank only three glasses of water.

"These parents had no intention of hurting their child. In fact, all this was done in an attempt to help the child through an extreme emotional problem," Danielson said.

He said Cassandra was physically and sexually abused before being adopted and was not bonding with her new parents. He said the Cascade Center for Family Growth in Orem promoted forced water drinking for children with attachment disorder. Such children resist loving relationships and are violent and unmanageable.

Center director Larry Van Bloem denied that his therapists promoted forced water drinking. "No, we never recommend it," he told The Daily Herald of Provo.

In June, Springville police searched the Cascade Center for therapy records on Cassandra.

"There is not any evidence to prove any criminal culpability on the part of the center," Lt. Dave Caron said. "The drinking of the water is not what they do at the center, not part of the therapies. These parents looked at it as kind of an offshoot kind of thing."

The couple have two other daughters, one adopted. Both have been placed in foster care.

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.

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