HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on August 6, 2013.
Hana Williams died two years ago, in May 2011, of hypothermia after her mother banished her from the house as punishment for being “rebellious.” Hana was already overly-thin from starvation—her parents withheld food as punishment—and she had often been forced to sleep in the barn, use an outdoor port-a-potty, and shower outside.
Hana Williams had been adopted from Ethiopia in 2008 by a conservative Christian homeschooling couple who followed the child training methods of Michael and Debi Pearl.
Her trial is currently taking place, including testimony from some of the children’s seven biological children and Hana’s adopted Ethiopian brother.
I’m going to offer some excerpts from recent articles covering the trial. If you want to see video news reports, click through, as most of these articles include news footage. For what I’ve previously had to say about Hana Williams’ death, read this post from two years ago, written right after the news of Hana’s death surfaced.
Jurors See Before and After Photos of Starved Girl, August 1, 2013
For the first time, jurors saw what Hana Williams looked like as a healthy girl–and her shocking deterioration before her death.
Video taken in 2007 before she left Ethiopia shows Hana smiling as she looks at the camera. A photo taken closer to her death in 2011 shows her thin teen and shaved head.
Hana’s adopted brother, Immanuel, who is deaf, testified she was always told to stay outside by her adoptive parents, Larry and Carri Williams.
“They didn’t let her into the house to warm up,” said 12-year-old Immanuel, through an interpreter.
Immanuel says he and Hana were treated very differently from the Williams’ own seven children.
Hana’s Adopted Brother Testifies about Abuse, August 1, 2013
During the third day of witness testimony yesterday in the trial of Larry and Carri Williams, a mental health therapist from Seattle Children’s Hospital testified that Hana’s 12-year-old brother suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder because of the abuse he endured under the hands of his adoptive parents.
The mental health expert, Dr. Julia Petersen, said that the boy, who was also adopted from Ethiopia, started meeting with her last winter, when he had been in foster care for more than a year, local media reported. The couple have pleaded not guilty.
Per the Skagit Valley Herald: “Petersen said the boy fit the diagnostic criteria for PTSD based in part on his nightmares about being physically harmed and the fact he was constantly afraid of making mistakes or expressing himself lest he be “punished.” Discipline the boy experienced in the Williams home, plus seeing Hana in pain and dying, is traumatic enough to lead to PTSD, she said.”
Dr Petersen pointed out that the brother’s upbringing in Ethiopia or his stay at foster care in the U.S. do not appear to be the reason for the post-traumatic stress disorder. “Losing his parents caused the boy sadness and grief, but not the same kind of anxiety brought on by what he said happened in the Williams home,” Petersen said.
Latest from the Williams Trial, August 4, 2013
An expert on torture testified Friday in the homicide-by-abuse trial of Larry and Carri Williams who are accused of abusing their two adopted children from Ethiopia, Hana and Immanuel, and causing the death of Hana.
13-year-old Hana Alemu (Hana Williams) was found dead on May 12, 2011 in the family’s backyard in Sedro-Woolley, Washington. She died of hypothermia, which doctors say was hastened by malnutrition and a stomach condition.
“In my judgment, it’s not a close case,” said John Hutson, taking the witness stand on day-six of the trial. The law school professor and dean, who had previously testified before Congress about military prisoner abuse, added: “They both were unquestionably tortured.”
Kids Testify in Abuse and Murder Trial, August 5, 2013
Cara, one of Larry and Carri’s seven children, says Immanuel, a brother, and Hana ate outside and slept in a closet when they broke the rules in the gated, conservative Christian home.
The parents claim they cared for the adopted pair—like shaving Hana’s hair when she had lice. But Cara says Hana’s braids were shaved as punishment.
“Because she was clipping grass around the house and she was clipping it down to an inch instead of leaving a couple of inches,” said Cara.
The Williams could face life in prison and are charged with assaulting Immanuel and abusing Hana to death.
A witness told investigators the couple followed a controversial book called “Train Up A Child”. The author tells parents to use a switch, cold baths, withhold food and force children outside in cold weather as punishment. Cara says her father, a Boeing worker, and her stay-at-home mother hit all of the kids.
“In your family you call the swats and spanking “training” correct?” asked Larry’s attorney, Cassie Trueblood.
“Yes,” said Cara.
But Cara says the adopted children were the only ones who had to shower outside with a garden hose.
“Did you ever take a shower out there?” asked prosecutor Rich Weyrich.
“No,” said Cara.
Prosecutors want jurors to hear from the couple’s oldest sons. But a judge ruled the pair will not testify without immunity—because they are also accused with abusing their adopted siblings. Prosecutors say they are willing to give immunity from any future charges which should clear the way for the boys to testify this week.
It will be interesting to see where things go from here.
You know what’s really sad about this? The very deafening silence coming from the vast evangelical Christian network on this and other cases of child deaths from parents following ultra conservative theology. What about being “pro-life”? Where are the rallies for children beaten to death by their parents with switches? Where are the indignant Facebook posts/pages/petition for adopted kids being abused to death? Nothing. Just silence. Where are the calls for the Pearls to answer for the precious lives that been lost because of strict adherence to their teachings? None. The silence is absolutely crushing.
Excuse me, but after reading the Pearl’ books I didn’t read ANYTHING that condoned starvation as a way of discipline. Why would they need to answer to anyone. Have you ever met them? Have you read ANYTHING by them? I have met them and their children, all of whom serve the Lord out of LOVE and not fear.