Mother faces charges in daughter's 'rebirthing' therapy death

GOLDEN, Colo. - A woman faces charges in the death of her 10-year-old adopted daughter, who suffocated during a therapy session intended to simulate birth.

Prosecutors say they expect Jeane Newmaker, 46, of Durham, N.C., to return to Colorado voluntarily. Four employees at a therapy center in Evergreen were charged last week in the death of Candace Newmaker.

The mother faces charges of criminally negligent child abuse resulting in death, Jefferson County Deputy District Attorney Steve Jensen said Tuesday.

Candace died in a Denver hospital a day after undergoing treatment at Connell Watkins and Associates. She had been rolled up in a flannel sheet and died of asphyxiation, the coroner said. Both ends of the sheet were twisted above the girl's head and large pillows were placed around her head in an attempt to represent the womb.

The therapy is intended to enable troubled children to recover from trauma by struggling out of the covering and being ''reborn.''

Connell Watkins, the center's owner, told authorities she and three others pressed on the pillows to simulate labor contractions and encouraged Candace to push her way out. Therapists called paramedics after they unrolled the blanket and found that Candace wasn't breathing.

Four employees at the therapy center, including Watkins, 53, were charged Thursday with child abuse resulting in death.

The other employees charged were lead therapist Julie Ponder, 39; business manager Brita St. Clair, 41; and intern Jack McDaniel, 47. All four have been released on bond pending a preliminary hearing Aug. 15.

Newmaker said she adopted Candace in 1996 and had sought several different treatments for her, including help for depression and attention deficit disorder. She said she contracted with Watkins for a two-week intensive program for $7,000.

Ponder said she didn't know Candace was having problems during the session. The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office said a videotape of the therapy shows that Candace complained several times that she couldn't breathe and told them she had to vomit.


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