Hana Alemu was an Ethiopian adoptee found dead outside her adoptive parents’ home in Washington state over two years ago. Many people–Ethiopians, Americans, adoptive parents, adoptees–were enraged and deeply saddened by the circumstances of Hana’s death. I’ve written about Hana before, here and here. This Facebook group honors Hana.
A Brief Recap
Hana Alemu died May 12, 2011. A report on her death cited by the Seattle Times said she died from “a culmination of chronic starvation caused by a parent’s intentional food restriction, severe neglect, physical and emotional abuse, and stunning endangerment.”
Her adoptive parents, Larry and Carri Williams, were charged with her death in September 2011. In November 2012, they pled not guilty to the charges against them: homicide by abuse and first degree manslaughter by domestic violence.
One reason perhaps for the delay in getting to trial has been Hana’s age. She was thought to be 13 when she died. Also in November 2012, the judge agreed to the prosecutor’s request to exhume Hana’s body to confirm her age. The exhumation took place in January 2013, but the findings were inconclusive. Lawyers are now trying to track down Hana’s Ethiopian uncle, who may have been present at Hana’s birth, and could thus verify her age.
Hana’s age matters because the “homicide by abuse” charge applies only to children younger than 16. My understanding is that the penalty for homicide by abuse is more severe than that of manslaughter by domestic violence. The prosecutors, on behalf of Hana, will argue for the Williamses to get the harsher sentence.
On June 7 2013, a brief hearing was held in Skagit County to work out administrative details for the upcoming trial, expected to begin July 22, 2013. It could last for weeks. I expect it will get a lot of media coverage.
Many people from the Ethiopian community and the adoption community will be there, to honor Hana, hoping that justice will be served for her. I will be among them. We can’t forget her.