Therapist in ‘rebirthing’ death leaves prison
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.
[Candace] Newmaker died on April 19, 1999, after a “rebirthing” session in Watkins’ Evergreen home in which she was wrapped in a sheet and placed under several large pillows while four adults pushed against her to simulate birth.
When Candace told them she couldn’t breathe and that she was going to die, the therapists said, “go ahead and die,” which they explained later as needing to break Candace’s habit of controlling adults.
Watkins is in a supervised program in which she has to wear an ankle bracelet and has to have at least weekly contact with a corrections officer.
Ponder had also applied to the community corrections program, but has been denied, according to Morgan.
Julie Ponder will next appear before the parole board in April, 2009.