Case file: Parents starved and beat girl, locked her out in the cold

Case file: Parents starved and beat girl, locked her out in the cold »Play Video
Hana Williams
SEATTLE - A 13-year-old girl who died of hypothermia earlier this year was systematically starved, beaten, forced to use an outdoor toilet and sometimes locked in a dark closet for days by her adoptive parents, according to court documents released Friday.

Larry P. Williams and Carri D. Williams of Sedro Woolley were arrested on Thursday and booked into Skagit County Jail for investigation of homicide by abuse and assault of a child in the first degree. Each is being held on $500,000 bail.

The Williams' adoptive daughter, Hana Williams, was found dead in May - naked, in her own backyard - after she had spent much of a cold, rainy day outside as a punishment, according to court documents.

Hana had been adopted from Ethiopia in 2008 as a diseased little girl to begin a new life with her new parents in America. Instead, she was beaten, starved, forced to sleep in a barn at times and deprived of love and basic necessities.

Although she died of hypothermia, there were other contributing causes to her death, including severe malnutrition and chronic gastritis, doctors said.

Child Protective Services said there are reports that Hana had lost a significant amount of weight before her death. And the night she died, she was out in the yard naked on a rainy evening, with temperatures in the low 40s.

Further investigation revealed that Hana had a number of injuries on the night she died, including a large lump on the head, bloody marks and injuries "consistent with disciplinary impacts with a switch," according to court documents released Friday.

Those same documents describe the hellish life that Hana endured in the months before her death - which included systematic withholding of food, forced times outdoors in the cold or locked in a dark closet, interspersed with regular spankings or beatings with a plumbing tool.

In interviews with the parents and other children in the household, investigators determined that the Williams withheld food from Hana as a punishment for being "rebellious," court documents say.

In addition, Hana was forced to use an outdoor portable toilet behind the barn instead of the home's indoor bathroom, and she sometimes was made to take cold showers while naked outdoors under a garden hose, the case file says.

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.

Other punishments included locking Hana inside a dark closet for hours or days without food while the parents played the Bible on tape and Christian music for her while she was locked inside, according to court documents.

Hana also was forced to sleep in the barn on some nights or kept outside for hours in the cold without adequate clothing or shoes, court documents say - but she was allowed to wear shoes if there was snow on the ground.

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.

The children told investigators that 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.

The Williams' older biological children were sometimes encouraged to join in administering the punishment by their parents.

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.

Howard Cooper, a retired pastor who said the Williams and their children sometimes attended worship services at his church, said he had no idea abuse was going on inside the home.

"The kids, to me, they were nice loving kids. I loved to see them come," Cooper says.

Then, last spring, Cooper says Larry Williams asked him to officiate at Hana's memorial service.

"They told me they found her in the yard," Cooper says. "I wondered, 'What's she doing in the yard?' But I didn't press that."

On the night of Hana's death, Carri Williams is accused of sending her out in the cold and rain. She was later found naked, face-down, in the mud, according to court documents.

"I was totally shocked," says Cooper. "I had no idea why this happened."

According to documents, both parents and their children called Hana "rebellious." Carri Williams reportedly told a friend she thought she was adopting a little girl, not a "half-grown woman."

Yet at her funeral, Pastor Cooper says he saw an image of a grieving father.

"His heart was hurting, that his little girl had passed away," he says.

The Williams' other adopted child, a 10-year-old boy who also was adopted at the same time as Hana, is deaf - and also reportedly showed signs of abuse.

Prosecutors say the first-degree assault accusation against the Williams stems from allegations relating to the boy, who was also from Ethiopia but no relation to Hana.

According to court papers, the Williams also withheld food from the boy at times and switched him regularly - sometimes for not listening to them - even though he was deaf.

KOMO News attempted to get comments from the Williams, their attorney or their relatives - but were unable to do so.

After Hana's death, CPS convinced a judge to pull Hana's eight brothers and sister - ages seven to 17 - from their Sedro-Woolley home. Those children are all now in temporary foster care. The parents have requested a hearing to fight to get their children back.

It was not clear whether charges have been filed yet against the Williams.