Therapist in 'rebirthing' death leaves prison

Denver Post/August 1, 2008

One of two therapists convicted in the "rebirthing" death of a 10-year-old girl has been released from prison and is completing her sentence in a Denver area halfway house.

Connell Watkins, 62, was released and "accepted to a transitional community setting" on June 6, said Allison Morgan, a Colorado Department of Corrections spokeswoman.

In 2001, Watkins and Julie Ponder, 47, were both sentenced to 16 years in prison after being convicted of reckless child abuse resulting in the death of Candace Newmaker.

Jeane Newmaker, Candace's adoptive mother, brought the child to Evergreen from their North Carolina home in April 2000 to be treated by Watkins and Associates for an attachment disorder. Candace suffocated during a 70-minute rebirthing session, part of a two-week intensive program that was supposed to help her bond with Jeane Newmaker. The rebirthing session gone awry was videotaped and shown to the jury during the trial. It showed Candace pleading for air and for her life. It also showed the therapists disregarding those pleas.

As part of Watkins' "intensive supervision," she has to wear an ankle bracelet that monitors her whereabouts, Morgan said.

Watkins cannot be employed in any type of psychological consulting or counseling profession as part of her release agreement, Morgan said. There also are restrictions on the types of contact she can have with minors.

Ponder, 41, is still serving her prison sentence at the La Vista Correctional Facility.

Her next appearance before the parole board is set for April 2009, Morgan said.

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