Attachment Center at Evergreen, Attachment Therapy, candace newmaker, Charly D. Miller, Connell Watkins, Jean Mercer, Julie Ponder, Larry Sarner, Linda Rosa, Michael Shermer, Monica Pignotti, prone restraints, rebirthing
What Caused Candace Tiara Elmore’s (aka Candace Newmaker) Death?
Candace Tiara Elmore (aka Candace Newmaker) was smothered to death, and yes, it is a crime to smother a person. There’s no argument there or doubt about that. However, things are not as simple as proponents of certain questionable therapies would want to have us believe so they can distance themselves from Candace’s killers.
I am going to preface my remarks by saying that this is in no way meant to be a defense of the actions of Connell Watkins, Julie Ponder and the others who were responsible for Candace’s death. They richly deserved the prison sentences they got and if it were up to me, they would have been locked up for life with no possibility of parole. I was dismayed to learn that Connell Watkins was released on parole as early as she was. However, that being said, I also understand that they could not get a life sentence because they were not convicted of first or even second degree murder, although I do wish she had at least had to serve out the full term of the sentence she did get. The fact is that they did not intend to smother or even harm Candace Newmaker. This was certainly not premeditated murder, nor was it even a crime of passion where they just lost their tempers.
No, the reason Candace died was because of the beliefs of the therapists. They did not kill Candace in a fit of rage. Far from it. What they did was much, much worse. They calmly sat there while the whole session was being recorded on videotape and listened to her pleas, ignoring them because of their strong belief in their bogus theories. While Candace cried out for help, they taunted her. What they did was much worse than someone who just loses control and murders someone in a fit of rage. Connell Watkins and Julie Ponder were very much in control of themselves and the session and they were proving to Candace who was boss. Although they did not intend to kill Candace, what they did was professionally reckless, arrogant and irresponsible. They used an intervention and subscribed to a theory that had no scientific support. Instead, they thought they could just trust their gut instincts and feelings about what is correct and they were dead wrong.
The physical cause of Candace’s death was that she smothered to death, but she would not have smothered to death, had the therapists believed her the first time when she told them she could not breathe. Why did they not believe her? Because they held the strong conviction and subscribed to the unsupported theory that children with “attachment disorder” are “manipulative”. This is made very clear by Connell Watkins’ own statements. She did not in any way intend to kill Candace. She and Ponder made it clear that they thought that Candace was lying in order to manipulate the therapists and so they kept the process going and did not let her out of the blankets, not because they intended to kill her but because they wanted to help her. This is no different from what most attachment therapists believe: that RAD kids or “raddishes” as they derogatorily call them, lie [and no, I do not believe that “raddish” is an affectionate term — it is not affectionate to call a child a root vegetable — it is dehumanizing and not at all cute or funny, in my opinion]. A favorite saying of attachment therapists is how do you know when a RAD kid is lying? His/her mouth is moving.
To call Candace’s death a “rebirthing” death is misleading because people people who practice rebirthing when it is not part of an “attachment therapy” intensive have not killed people and rebirthing has been around for over 30 years. This is not meant to defend rebirthing in any way. Rebirthing is an unvalidated, pseudoscientific therapy that I do not in any way recommend. However, rebirthing practitioners who are not also attachment therapists do not believe that their clients are manipulative and would lie to them. Connell Watkins and Julie Ponder bought the AT belief system, hook, line and sinker. They also practiced rebirthing, incorporated into the attachment therapy intensive, which was a deviation from the Attachment Center at Evergreen (ACE) model, which also is sorely lacking in solid scientific support (Watkins used to work at ACE but then went off on her own and added rebirthing to her deadly mix of therapies). Rebirthing is not the only physically dangerous procedure used by attachment therapists. Dangerous restraints, especially prone restraints could also have serious consequences, especially if the child is not believed because the adults think the child is being manipulative.
Michael Shermer called Candace’s death a “death by theory” and he is correct. Although smothering was the cause of her death, she never would have smothered to death if only the therapists had believed her the very first time she complained she could not breath. The reason they did not was that they subscribed to the bogus theory that children with attachment disorders are manipulative. If you look in the DSM IV-TR at the RAD diagnoses, nowhere in those diagnostic criteria is manipulation and lying. Candice is not the first child who has not been believed. It is quite common for kids undergoing attachment therapy or other approaches that target RAD kids to not be believed when they say they are in pain while being subjected to various physically invasive procedures. The distance between Connell Watkins and other therapists who practice physical restraints to show the child who is boss, is not as great as they would like to have us think. Where I come from, showing someone who is boss through the use of physical force is called bullying, not therapy.
It may not take a hero to condemn someone for smothering another human being, but it does take a hero to challenge a belief system prevalent among certain “attachment therapists” that does not allow them to believe what the children are telling them. This is especially so when people who challenge such therapists are subjected to all out smear campaigns, but that being said, it really is time for people who silently agree with me to really seriously consider whether it is time for you to show some courage and take a peaceful, but public stand. There is strength in numbers when it comes to standing up to bullies and based on the feedback I have gotten by anyone I respect is that such smear campaigns make the cyber bullies engaging in them look far worse than they could ever dream of making me look. If enough people were to come forward and tell the truth as best they know it, these bullies would have no power. Remember the saying that for evil to triumph, it is only necessary that good people do nothing. As George Orwell wrote, “freedom is the freedom to say that 2 + 2 = 4”. If you are too afraid to call things as you honestly see them, then how free are you really? Is it really worth it, to walk on eggshells so that the bullies can have control, just to hold onto the illusion of safety and security? I don’t think so, but that is something each person will need to decide for him or herself.