Split verdict surprises and stuns the Killpacks

Jury convicts mother but acquits father in girl's death

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 12 2005 12:00 a.m. MDT

But prosecutors said the Killpacks were aware of the risks in giving their daughter too much water. In a police interview after Cassandra's death, Richard Killpack said his wife had forced Cassandra to drink water before, causing her to vomit, and that he felt it was dangerous.

Utah County deputy attorney Dave Sturgill also urged jurors to disregard the Killpacks' testimony that the water discipline method had the approval of therapists at the Cascade Center for Family Growth, a controversial Orem clinic that has since closed.

"Don't forget this was Jennete's idea, and it was implemented before they met with (Cascade)," he said.

Sturgill and Ragan also told jurors to disregard the Killpacks' explanations for the girl's death — which ranged from head trauma to heat exhaustion to mistakes made by medical personnel treating her.

"All credible medical evidence indicates Cassandra died of forced water intoxication . . . ," Ragan said. "The other explanations for how Cassandra died are not consistent with medical or other evidence."

Ragan said the Killpacks' varying explanations for the girl's death amounted to a refusal to accept responsibility for their actions. Defense attorneys argued the Killpacks were simply searching for answers. They also said medical personnel hastily concluded Cassandra had died of forced water intoxication without considering other possibilities, including head trauma and a psychological condition that made the girl crave water.

"I don't think they know, I don't think we know . . . that this death was caused by water intoxication," Esplin said.

The Killpacks appeared stunned by the verdict. They lingered in the courtroom after prosectors had left, hugging teary-eyed family and friends

"I thought we created reasonable doubt," Esplin said. "Obviously the jury disagreed."

E-mail: jhyde@desnews.com

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