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‘Rebirthing’ Assistants Get Probation

From Reuters

A judge Thursday sentenced a married couple to probation and community service for their role in the death of a 10-year-old girl who suffocated during an unconventional psychotherapy session.

Prosecutors had asked for a prison sentence for Jack McDaniel, 48, and Brita St. Clair, 42, in the April 2000 death of Candace Newmaker, but the judge was persuaded by a sentencing report that recommended against sending the couple to prison.

McDaniel and St. Clair were assisting two therapists, Connell Watkins and Julie Ponder, who were convicted in April of reckless child abuse; each was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Attorneys for McDaniel and St. Clair argued that they knew nothing about “rebirthing” therapy and had no control during the session in which the girl was wrapped in a blanket and begged for air before suffocating.

“Any other form of punishment would be inappropriate in this case,” Jefferson County Judge Jane Tidball said.

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County prosecutor Steve Jensen said he was disappointed. “We felt strongly that the conduct warranted a jail sentence,” he said later.

McDaniel and St. Clair pleaded guilty in August to negligent child abuse and could have been sentenced to up to 16 years in prison and fined up to $750,000.

Instead, they will be on probation for 10 years and must do 1,000 hours of community service.

McDaniel and St. Clair worked for Watkins and were present during the procedure when the girl was wrapped in a blanket and told to force her way out to be “reborn” to her adoptive mother.

Psychologists testified the girl had been diagnosed with reactive attachment disorder, meaning she could not bond with her adoptive mother.

Adoptive mother Jeane Newmaker, who was present for the therapy session, is scheduled to go on trial in November on charges of negligent child abuse.


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