Candace Newmaker

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Candace Newmaker
Candace Newmaker.jpg
Candace Tiara Elmore

(1989-11-19)November 19, 1989
DiedApril 18, 2000(2000-04-18) (aged 10)
Cause of deathSuffocation

Candace Elizabeth Newmaker (born Candace Tiara Elmore, November 19, 1989 – April 18, 2000) was a child who was killed during a 70-minute attachment therapy session purported to treat reactive attachment disorder. The treatment used that day included a rebirthing script, during which Candace was suffocated.


Candace was born in Lincolnton, North Carolina to Angela and Todd Elmore. At a young age, she and her younger brother Michael and sister Chelsea were removed from the home for neglect and separated by social services. When she was five, her parents' parental rights were terminated. Two years later she was adopted by Jeane Elizabeth Newmaker, a single woman and pediatric nurse practitioner in Durham, North Carolina.

Within months of the adoption, Jeane began taking Candace to a psychiatrist, complaining about her behavior and attitude at home. Though Candace was treated with medications, Jeane reported that Candace's behavior got worse during the ensuing two years, a period supposedly including her playing with matches and killing goldfish.[1]

Attachment therapy and Candace's death[edit]

Candace and Jeane Newmaker traveled to Evergreen, Colorado in April 2000, for a $7,000 two-week "intensive" session of attachment therapy with Connell Watkins, who was without license, upon a referral from William Goble, a licensed psychologist in North Carolina.[1][2][3]

Candace died during the second week of the intensive sessions with Watkins during what has been called a "rebirthing" session. Participating in the fatal session as therapists were Watkins and Julie Ponder, also without license, along with Candace's "therapeutic foster parents", Brita St. Clair, Jack McDaniel, and Jeane Newmaker.[3]

Following the script for that day's treatment, Candace was wrapped in a flannel sheet and covered with pillows to simulate a womb or birth canal and was told to fight her way out of it, with the apparent expectation that the experience would help her "attach" to her adoptive mother. Four of the adults (weighing a combined total of 673 pounds) used their hands and feet to push on Candace's head, chest and 70-pound body to resist her attempts to free herself, while she complained, pleaded, and even screamed for help and air, unable to escape from the sheet. Candace stated eleven times during the session that she was dying, to which Ponder responded, "Go ahead, die right now, for real. For real."[1] Twenty minutes into the session, Candace had vomited and excreted inside of the sheet; she was nonetheless kept restrained within.[2]

Forty minutes into the session, Candace was asked if she wanted to be reborn. She faintly responded "no"; this would ultimately be her last word.[1][4] To this, Ponder replied, "Quitter, quitter, quitter, quitter! Quit, quit, quit, quit. She's a quitter!"[5] Jeane Newmaker, who said later she felt rejected by Candace's inability to be reborn, was asked by Watkins to leave the room, in order for Candace not to "pick up on (Jeane's) sorrow". Soon thereafter, Watkins requested the same of McDaniel and Brita St. Clair, leaving only herself and Ponder in the room with Candace. After talking for five minutes, the two unwrapped Candace and found that she was motionless, blue on the fingertips and lips, and not breathing. Upon seeing this, Watkins declared, "Oh there she is; she's sleeping in her vomit," whereupon the mother, who had been watching on a monitor in another room, rushed into the room, remarked on Candace's color, and began CPR while Watkins called 9-1-1. When paramedics arrived ten minutes later, McDaniel told them that Candace had been left alone for five minutes during a rebirthing session and was not breathing. The paramedics surmised that Candace had been unconscious and possibly not breathing for some time. Paramedics were able to restore the girl's pulse and she was flown by helicopter to a hospital in Denver; however, she was declared brain-dead the next day as a consequence of asphyxia.[1][3][4]

The entire 70 minutes of the fatal session, as well as ten hours of other sessions from the preceding days, had been videotaped as a matter of course with Watkins's treatment. All the videos were shown at the trial of Watkins and Ponder.[3][6]


A year later, Watkins and Ponder were tried and convicted of reckless child abuse resulting in death and received 16-year prison sentences. Brita St. Clair and Jack McDaniel, the therapeutic foster parents, pleaded guilty to criminally negligent child abuse and were given ten years' probation and 1,000 hours of community service in a plea bargain.[7][8] The adoptive mother, Jeane Newmaker, a nurse practitioner, pleaded guilty to neglect and abuse charges and was given a four-year suspended sentence, after which the charges were expunged from her record. An appeal by Watkins against conviction and sentence failed.[9] Watkins was paroled in June 2008, under "intense supervision" with restrictions on contact with children or counseling work, having served approximately 7 years of her 16-year sentence.[10]


The story of Candace's death was a national one in the United States, with contemporaneous reports about her death and the subsequent trial of her therapists appearing in newspapers and news magazines all around the country, as well as internationally.

The case was the motivation behind "Candace's Law", in Colorado and North Carolina, which outlawed dangerous re-enactments of the birth experience.[11][12] The US House of Representatives and Senate have separately passed resolutions urging similar actions in other states.[13]

In popular culture[edit]

The 2017 web series Petscop alludes to Newmaker, with references including the name of the "Newmaker Plane", the setting of the titular video game, and several mentions of a character named "Tiara" as well as exploration of the theme of "rebirthing", although the connection is merely just speculation.[14]

An episode of the long running procedural drama Law & Order featured an allusion to Candace Newmaker's death in the sixth episode of their twelfth season, titled "Born Again". [15] The series popular spinoff, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, also included a subplot involved a child being killed during a "rebirthing therapy" session in the eighth episode of their eighth season, "Cage" [16].

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Crowder, Carla; Lowe, Peggy (October 29, 2000). "Her name was Candace". Denver Rocky Mountain News. Archived from the original on June 16, 2009.
  2. ^ a b Siegel, Barry (4 February 2001). "Seeking child's love, a child's life is lost". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: A1, A22–A24.
  3. ^ a b c d Auge, Karen (June 17, 2000). "Alternative therapies not new in Evergreen". Denver Post. Retrieved 2019-03-13.
  4. ^ a b Gillan, Audrey (June 20, 2001). "The therapy that killed". Guardian Unlimited. Archived from the original on September 25, 2006.
  5. ^ Caldwell, C. (28 May 2001). "Colorado rebirthers convicted". Weekly Standard. 6 (35): 20ff.
  6. ^ Mercer, Jean; Sarner, Larry; Rosa, Linda (2006), Attachment therapy on trial: The torture and death of Candace Newmaker, Child Psychology and Mental Health, chapter by Costa G., Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, ISBN 0-275-97675-0, ISSN 1538-8883, OCLC 51242100
  7. ^ Sink, M (October 5, 2001). "Rockies: Colorado: Probation in suffocation death". New York Times.
  8. ^ Nicholson, Kieran (August 2, 2001). "Rebirthing aides to plead to lesser charges in death". Denver Post.
  9. ^ Affirmation of judgement and sentence on appeal by Watkins (PDF), archived from the original (PDF) on September 7, 2008, retrieved April 18, 2008
  10. ^ The Associated Press (Aug 3, 2008). "Therapist In 'Rebirthing' Death In Halfway House". Archived from the original on Aug 6, 2008.
  11. ^ Sarner, Larry (June 19, 2001). ""Rebirthers" Who Killed ChildReceive 16-Year Prison Terms". Quackwatch. Retrieved 2019-03-13.
  12. ^ "§ 14-401.21. Practicing "rebirthing technique"; penalty". North Carolina General Assembly. Retrieved 2019-03-13.
  13. ^ "Senate Condemns Rebirthing Techniques". Women's Policy. Archived from the original on January 28, 2006. Retrieved January 28, 2006.
  14. ^ Hernandez, Patricia (2017-04-21). "People Are Trying To Find The Truth About A Creepy 'Unfinished' PlayStation Game". Kotaku. Retrieved 2017-11-24.
  15. ^ Born Again, retrieved 2019-07-24
  16. ^ "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (season 8)", Wikipedia, 2019-07-15, retrieved 2019-07-24

External links[edit]