Court Hears Details of Springville "Holding Therapy" Death

Court Hears Details of Springville "Holding Therapy" Death

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PROVO, Utah (AP) -- As 4-year-old Cassandra Killpack was dying after allegedly being forced to drink a fatal amount of water as punishment, her adoptive parents insisted on listing their complaints about the girl, a hospital physician testified.

"The first thing (Richard and Jennete Killpack) said was that she was a very bad and disturbed child," Dr. Anne Moon testified Monday as the parents' preliminary hearing got under way in 4th District Court. "They took five minutes to explain how many different things were wrong with the child."

Moon and other personnel at Primary Children's Medical Center also noticed that Richard Killpack refused to call the girl by name. "We'd never seen anyone so distant," Moon said.

The Springville couple are charged with child-abuse homicide and child abuse in the June 9 death.

The Killpack's biological daughter, 7-year-old Heather Nicole Killpack, recalled the events of June 9 during a videotaped police interview that was played in court.

She said Cassandra got in trouble by drinking juice from a cup intended for the Killpack's adopted 1-year-old daughter.

"I said, 'You'll have to go to Mom and do the drinking-water thing,' " Heather told the officer, adding: "She makes her drink till she pukes."

Cassandra fought and screamed so hard that Jennete Killpack tied the child's hands behind her back with curtain cord, tipped her head back and tried to pour water down her throat, Heather said.

At one point, the girl slipped and fell from the wet, slippery bar stool, possibly hitting her head on the floor, Heather said

With the help of a stuffed animal, Heather then described how her mother picked Cassandra from the floor and forcefully slammed the girl back onto the bar stool.

Heather said her father then held the child while her mother tried but failed to get the child to drink. "She was spitting water in Mom's face," Heather said.

Cassandra was then ordered to jump up and down, run and do sit-ups, but she refused.

Sent to a corner for a time-out, Cassandra "puked all over the wall and all over the floor," Heather said.

The Killpacks ordered Cassandra to get a towel and clean up the mess, but Heather said the girl wobbled instead of walked and soon after complained of a headache, then refused to speak, and "all of a sudden she lay down," Heather said.

Moon testified that Cassandra had died from "water intoxication and brain damage as a result of child abuse."

The water Cassandra ingested lowered the sodium level in her bloodstream, which upset her brain function, causing it to swell and triggering seizures.

The girl's lungs also were disabled from water that entered her lungs during the forced drinking session, as well as from aspirating vomit during the seizures, Moon said. The result was the girl's brain was unable to get oxygen, she said.

When Cassandra was admitted to Primary Children's intensive care unit, she already was brain dead, Moon said.

She said that brain scans showed the girl may have been gravely ill hours earlier than the trouble was reported.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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