In January of 2006, Jennete Killpack was sentenced to up to fifteen years in prison, for child abuse-homicide. On June 9th, 2002, Killpack tied her four-year-old daughter’s hands behind her back and forced her to drink a gallon of water as a punishment for sneaking sips of Kool-Aid. The child, Cassandra, died of water intoxication, a condition characterized by brain swelling, fatally dropping sodium levels, vomiting and dysfunction in the central nervous system.
Now, after five years incarcerated, Killpack had her first meeting with the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole. While Killpack herself has voiced the desire to go home to her family, others are not so sure she should be released yet.
“For those of us who were involved in her whole case, it’s hard to imagine her ever getting out,” said Sherry Ragan, who was the prosecuting attorney at Killpack’s 2006 trial. “It wasn’t just the one day. This abuse had been ongoing.”
Some people believe that Killpack was encouraged to use hydrotherapy as a disciplinary method by Larry VanBloem, a therapist known for his unorthodox methods with “troubled” children. In addition to hydrotherapy, VanBloem was known to endorse what is known as “holding therapy”, a form of physical restraint meant to calm children down. However, VanBloem’s Cascade Center for Family Growth was cleared of any responsibility in Cassandra Killpack’s death in September of 2002.
Whether or not Killpack will be released is yet to be decided. According to Jim Hatch, the Board of Pardons and Parole is in the midst of making a decision and will reach a conclusion in two-to-three weeks.
Hatch indicated that the parole hearing had been scheduled shortly after Killpacks’ incarceration, dispelling reports which made it sound as though Killpack had requested the hearing herself. “We dictate when they [the convicted] have a parole hearing,” said Hatch. “Not them.”
Sherry Ragan is of the opinion that Killpack should not be released after only five years in prison.
“We were hoping that [Killpack] would never be around those kids again,” says Ragan, expressing concern for Killpack’s other children. “She not only caused the child’s death. She tortured her her whole life.”