Jury Selection Starts for Parents Accused in Therapy Death

Jury Selection Starts for Parents Accused in Therapy Death


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PROVO, Utah (AP) -- Jury selection has started in the trial of a Springville couple accused of causing the death of their 4-year-old adopted daughter by forcing her to drink too much water.

Richard and Jennete Killpack are charged with second-degree felony child abuse homicide in the death of Cassandra Killpack. Second-degree felonies are punishable by a sentence of one to 15 years in prison.

The jury is to be selected by Sept. 14.

One hundred prospective jurors were given 101-query questionnaires on Tuesday, asking them such things as where they get their news, what organizations they belong to, how they would characterize their political beliefs and their exposure to the criminal justice system.

They also were asked about their beliefs about mental health professionals, child behavior and parental discipline.

The case drew national attention because of the controversial forms of child discipline connected to the girl's death.

After attorneys on both sides and the Killpacks appeared on national TV shows, a judge restricted attorneys from commenting about the case.

Prosecutors say the Killpacks disciplined Cassandra by forcing her to drink at least 2.5 liters of water June 9, 2002, as punishment for stealing her younger sister's juice.

In taped interviews, the couple's 7-year-old daughter, Nicole Killpack, told police her parents had forced Cassandra to drink at least four large glasses of water as punishment for "sneaking" her younger sister's Kool-Aid or juice.

After tying Cassandra's arms behind her back, Jennete Killpack poured glass after glass of water down the girl's throat until she fell off a bar stool and hit her head, Nicole said.

When Richard Killpack came home from church meetings, he assisted his wife in what they considered therapy. Cassandra was forced to run around the house and stand in a corner until she vomited, Nicole said. Cassandra fell unconscious soon after.

State Chief Medical Examiner Todd Grey testified at a preliminary hearing in 2003 that the girl's death resulted from her blood-sodium level dropping precipitously and a subsequent fatal brain swelling. He said Cassandra also had water in her lungs that came from the forced water drinking or breathing in her own vomit.

Defense attorneys contend the disciplinary measure was on advice from the Cascade Center for Family Growth in Orem.

The center's director, Larry Van Bloem, who died in a car accident last year, had denied the center ever advised such treatment.

Jenny Gwilliam, a licensed clinical social worker and co-owner of the Cascade Center, testified she diagnosed Cassandra as having a severe case of reactive attachment disorder -- that she failed to bond with her adopted parents. They said she would hoard food or refuse to eat, would hit her head against the walls and would smear feces on walls.

Prosecutor Sherry Ragan contended the defense was trying to demonize the girl.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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