Local parents plead not guilty to killing adopted daughter
A Skagit County judge rules a little girl’s body may be exhumed to determine if her parents should face more severe charges for her death.
Larry and Carri Williams, of Sedro Woolley adopted a little girl from Ethiopia in 2008, but according to court documents, she might have been better off staying in that third world country.
Hana’s parents are accused of making her live in a closet, denying her meals, forcing her to go the bathroom in a Port-a-Potty outside the house, and beating her.
The night she died, in May of 2011, she was found naked in her yard on a rainy night with temperatures in the low 40s.
The coroner’s office says she died of “hypothermia and chronic starvation caused by a parent’s intentional food restriction, severe neglect, physical and emotional abuse and stunning endangerment,” according to the coroner’s office.
Initially, the Williams told investigators that they made Hana use the outdoor toilet because she had hepatitis and they didn’t want any of their other children to become infected with the disease.
The Williams also confirmed that they used a flexible plumbing tool as a switch to punish Hana and some of the other children in their household.
Other children in the household told investigators Hana sometimes was beaten with a switch for standing more than 12 inches away from where she was told to stand or for speaking without permission. And some of the older children in the family were also encouraged to “punish” her.
A witness told investigators that the Williams got their ideas for the disciplinary measures from a book, “How to Train Up Your Child,” which recommends “switchings” with a plumbing tool, cold water baths, withholding food and putting children out in cold weather as forms of punishment.
Michael Pearl, the Tennessee pastor who wrote the self-published book along with his wife Debi, defends his ideas saying the parents just took the recommended physical punishments “too far.”
The couple’s other adopted child, a 10-year-old boy also from Ethiopia, is deaf and reportedly showed signs of abuse.
After Hana’s death, CPS convinced a judge to remove Hana’s eight brothers and sister – ages seven to 17 – from their home and place them in temporary foster care.
The parents pleaded not guilty Wednesday to first-degree manslaughter, according to the Skagit Valley Herald.
Prosecutors want the girl’s body exhumed so they can determine her exact age. She was believed to have been 13-years-old when she died. Her age could affect one of the charges against the parents because homicide by abuse only applies to victims under the age of 16.
By LINDA THOMAS