The adoptive parents of a 13-year-old Sedro-Woolley girl who died in May after being left out in the cold at night have been charged with murder.
Hana Grace-Rose Williams came to Washington state from Ethiopia in 2008 with ringworm, cold sores, parasites and hepatitis B. But none of those things killed her.
Instead, Skagit County authorities say, 13-year-old Hana died because her adoptive parents chronically starved her, abused her and left her outside on a cold May night with inadequate clothing.
On Thursday, more than four months after her death from hypothermia, Carri and Larry Williams, of Sedro-Woolley, were arrested and charged with homicide by abuse in connection with the death of their adopted daughter. They remained in the Skagit County Jail Thursday night on bail of $500,000 each.
Skagit County Prosecutor Rich Weyrich said in charging papers the couple engaged in a pattern of assault or torture on Hana.
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The couple repeatedly denied her food, locked her in a dark closet and beat her with a long plastic tube, according to an affidavit from the Skagit County sheriff’s office.
They also made her sleep in a barn, shower outside with a garden hose and even sit outside while the family celebrated Christmas inside.
If guests came over, the affidavit says, Hana was allowed to sit at the table but was given only bread to eat.
Hana lost nearly 30 pounds in the last two years of her life, and her thinness meant her body wasn’t able to retain enough heat that night in May, according to an autopsy report. Hana died May 12 when the temperature dipped to 42 degrees.
A report on her death concluded she’d died from “a culmination of chronic starvation caused by a parent’s intentional food restriction, severe neglect, physical and emotional abuse and stunning endangerment.”
Hana had been adopted through an international agency in 2008 along with a 10-year-old boy, also from Ethiopia.
Prosecutors on Thursday also charged the adoptive parents with assault of a child in the first degree in connection with their treatment of the 10-year-old boy. The boy is deaf, according to court documents.
Both children were treated differently from the couple’s six biological children, who ranged in age from 7 to 17, documents allege.
For instance, both were disciplined for being “rebellious,” one family member told investigators. The punishment included eating outside, away from the family, and having cold leftovers topped with frozen vegetables.
Another person told investigators that Carri Williams locked up the food and served only small portions, at times withholding food from her adopted children.
The children were all home-schooled in a gated community on about 5.6 acres, court papers say.
“The house is exceptionally clean and organized and did not have the appearance that eight children lived in this house,” Detective Theresa Luvera wrote in the affidavit.
One person told investigators the couple had a book called, “To Train Up A Child,” which teaches parents to switch their children with a plastic tube, starting at the age of 1. It also advocates putting children in cold-water baths for toilet training or putting them outside in cold weather, having them miss meals and sleep on the floor as punishment, the affidavit says.
The book, written by Michael and Debbie Pearl, is offered on Amazon.com for $7.95 but receives many negative reviews, such as, “I can’t believe Amazon.com is allowing this book to be sold on their website. It encourages child abuse! This book teaches parents to treat their children worse than dogs!”
When Hana was locked in the closet, one person told authorities, the parents played the Bible on tape and Christian music.
The Williamses told detectives that Hana had become increasingly rebellious and on the night of her death refused to come inside the house. She began throwing herself on the ground and pretending she couldn’t walk, they said.
The mother told authorities she found her daughter face down with mud in her mouth, not breathing.
Other sources told investigators that Carri Williams complained about her adopted daughter and seemed happier after she died.
In her online funeral notice, Hana was described as a “very pleasant young girl with a great personality and a beautiful smile.”
It said she liked knitting and crocheting, reading, drawing, playing soccer and riding her bicycle. After her death, the couple’s seven other children were placed in foster care.
The couple is likely to be arraigned next week, Weyrich said. If convicted, the Williamses face potential life sentences, court papers say.
Information from The Times’ archives was used in this report.
Jeff Hodson: 206-464-2109 or firstname.lastname@example.org