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Autopsy: Salt poisoning killed Kateland

June 01, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

An autopsy report concludes Kateland Titsworth, the 2-year-old Westmorland girl whose parents have been charged with murder in connection with her death, died from salt poisoning.

According to county Chief Deputy Coroner Sgt. Rick Macken, the autopsy report concurs with the toxicology results already released on Kateland's death.

Those toxicology findings stated Kateland had elevated levels of sodium chloride — salt — in her system.

In an interview Thursday, Macken said the elevated sodium levels "ultimately caused her death."

While he did not release a copy of the autopsy results to a reporter, he did say the report, also known as a forensic pathology report, states sodium chloride poisoning was the cause of death.

Kateland was pronounced dead at Pioneers Memorial Hospital in Brawley on April 9.

Her parents, John Anthony Titsworth and Hillary Titsworth of Westmorland, were arrested two days later.

They were booked into county jail and have remained in custody since that time, each with bail of $1 million.


The District Attorney's Office has charged both parents with murder, but Deputy District Attorney Deborah Owen has alleged it was Hillary Titsworth who force-fed her daughter table salt as a form of punishment.

In a court hearing earlier this week, Owen said Hillary Titsworth has confessed to investigators that she forced her daughter to eat the salt.

Owen said this week that when a preliminary hearing is held Tuesday, she will argue salt poisoning was the cause of death.

Owen also has said in earlier interviews that while John Titsworth was not the one who fed Kateland salt, he did not attempt to stop his wife.

Based on that, Owen said the murder charge against John Titsworth is tied to aiding and abetting in the alleged crime.

Owen was unavailable for comment on the release of the autopsy results.

El Centro attorney Poli Flores Jr., appointed by the court to represent Hillary Titsworth, and El Centro attorney Chris Yturralde, appointed to represent John Titsworth, were both unavailable for comment late Thursday and this morning.

Both Titsworths will face preliminary hearings on Tuesday.

During the hearing this week, the attorneys for the Titsworths requested the preliminary hearing be delayed.

When Superior Court Judge Joseph Zimmerman asked if Hillary Titsworth was willing to accept the delay, she agreed.

John Titsworth did not.

As a result, Zimmerman did not approve a delay.

As part of the investigation into Kateland's death, coroner investigators have said a large liquid substance identified as salt material was found in Kateland's stomach.

Officials have said there is no way the amount of salt in her system could have come from a normal consumption of salt.

To have that much salt in her system, coroner's officials allege, she would have to have been forced to consume salt by itself.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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