Four Face Trial in Child's Death

The Associated Press / August 18, 2000

GOLDEN, Colo. (AP) -- A judge ruled Thursday there is enough evidence to try four people charged with child abuse in the death of a 10-year-old girl who stopped breathing when she was wrapped in a sheet during 'rebirthing' therapy.

During the 70-minute, videotaped session, the girl told therapists 13 times that she was having trouble breathing or felt she was going to die, prosecutors said. Candace Newmaker had no pulse when the flannel sheet was unwrapped, and she died the next day in a hospital.

Prosecutor Steve Jensen said the four adults assumed a responsibility to protect Candace and went into the session with ``rose-colored glasses and chose to ignore what should have been obvious.''

Therapists Julie Ponder, 40, and Connell Watkins, 53; intern Jack McDaniel, 47; and business manager Brita St. Clair, 41, were ordered bound over to District Court.

Their arraignments are scheduled Sept. 18. Reckless child abuse carries a sentence of up to 48 years in prison.

McDaniel's lawyer, David Savitz, said the death was an accident. ``The people in the room were all there with the goal of helping this youngster's life,'' Savitz said after the hearing.

Another defense attorney, Michael Steinberg, who represents St. Clair, said, ``They can be painted as monsters, but these people dedicated their lives to helping children like Candace.''

In the rebirthing therapy, Candace was curled in a fetal position and wrapped in the flannel sheet meant to represent the womb. The attendants pushed against her with pillows and urged her to fight her way out to become ``reborn,'' authorities said.

The session was meant to help the girl overcome ``reactive attachment disorder,'' in which children resist forming loving relationships and become unmanageable and violent. The hope was that she would bond with her adoptive mother, who was present for part of the session.

Candace's adoptive mother, Jeane Newmaker, 46, of Durham, N.C., is due in court next month for a preliminary hearing on the lesser charge of criminally negligent child abuse resulting in death. The maximum prison sentence she could receive if convicted is 12 years.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.