Yesterday the Seattle Times published “Adoptive parents on trial in Ethiopian girl’s death,” about the ongoing trial of Larry and Carri Williams for homicide and manslaughter of their adopted Ethiopian daughter Hana Alemu, and for first degree assault of their surviving adopted Ethiopian son Immanuel. Click here to read the article. I’m quoted, along with several others. I spoke with the reporter for nearly an hour. I appreciate that she wrote a strong article outlining main points, and that the Seattle Times put the article on the front page, above the fold.
While there has been solid local reporting by Skagit Valley Herald’s Gina Cole, and film and stories by KIRO-TV’s Lee Stoll, this is the first large newspaper coverage of the trial. It could be a sign that the trial will begin to receive more attention from bigger media outlets, though perhaps that won’t happen until the verdict is announced. That announcement is probably weeks away.
A quote from the article:
The case has highlighted the gaps in oversight of adoptions in Washington and drawn attention to the challenges that some Ethiopian adoptees and their new parents may face. Parents and leaders in Washington’s adoption system are closely following the trial, as are Seattle-area Ethiopians, who have attended proceedings every day, almost as a vigil.
The article comments on the role of Washington State laws and policies regarding oversight of adoptions, and the concerns of many in the adoption community about how to prevent a tragedy like this from ever occurring again. I’ve written here about how the adoption community failed Hana. I’ve written here regarding questions for adoption agency practices.
Per my quote in the Seattle Times article, I believe preparation for adoptive parents needs to improve, so that they can best meet the needs of the children, who may have minimal or highly significant challenges. (At the least, adopted children have experienced the basic loss of their first family; some experience many more losses.) We need to make sure that anyone considering adoption is extremely well-screened, especially in terms of why they are adopting, and in terms of disciplinary techniques. I also believe we need to advocate for meaningful post-adoption services, and to affirm (not stigmatize) parents who seek out these services for their children. We also need to listen better to the insights of adult adoptees, whose perspectives are invaluable in adoption policy.
When this trial ends, whatever the outcome, that’s not the end at all for the legacy we can create for Hana. The small one is a decent grave marker for Hana at the Sedro-Woolley cemetery. The bigger ones are advocacy for changes in adoption practice that are truly child-centric and adoptee-focused: changes that ensure that children are safe and families receive help and support when they are struggling. Further, I hope that awareness is raised for the plight of Ethiopian adoptees who have had some similar (though not so tragic) experiences as Hana and Immanuel, who are now young adults, and who deserve care and support as well.
Immanuel, by the way, is done testifying. He described what he went through (beatings, isolation, missing meals, witnessing Hana’s treatment and death) and endured the defense attorneys’ cross-examination and their attempts to discredit him. Larry and Carri Williams are accused of first degree assault of Immanuel, so the defense attorneys’ job was to create reasonable doubt regarding the accusations. As a result, Immanuel was treated harshly on the stand by the defense attorneys.
I give Immanuel great credit for resiliency and strength in testifying, in facing those who harmed him, in re-visiting what were extremely painful life events, and in standing his ground for his truth. He has the great support of so many people he will probably never meet, but who will keep him in their hearts always. Justice for Hana, justice for Immanuel.
This is a little delicate but I’m wondering about the menstrual blood thing. Its a strange thing to do so I wonder if there was a purpose in the act. Was Hana trying to put up “wards” against her parents for example. She was not a little girl and seems to have been intelligent enough. I wonder if anyone questioned WHY she would do that, Hep B aside.
Is there a fund for a grave marker?
Thank you again for your well written clear blog regarding Hana and those being tried for her homicide. You mentioned earlier about having a proper grave stone for Hana – although I did not know Hana, I have stopped by her burial site – to pay her tribute and bring her flowers as I visit my daughter also at the Union Cemetery in Sedro-Woolley — but I wonder if there is a better place for her? I pray these awful people are found guilty and then give up their rights to sweet Hana’s remains ….. What do you think. For as ever as I live, I will visit her as I do my daughter – but woe that she be forgotten here in SW.
As the mom of two children adopted from the former USSR (one of whom now sits in prison) I agree with the need for post-adoption care. I got LOUSY advice from my church’s counselor and quickly moved on to “secular” counselors. Thank God! My son has had so much from his past to process, let alone all that he went thru in school. Had I stayed with church counseling [Please don’t misunderstand: ALL Christian counselors do not favor physical punishment) my son would have known nothing but endless stupid punishments. Unhappily for him, like many such teens, he is a thrill seeker and it got him into all kinds of trouble.
I adopted to have children. I went thru a church because it was how I could afford to adopt. The people who helped did do an adequate job of explaining problems. TODAY they have follow up help, but 10 years ago they did not. I cannot stress enough to potential adoptive parents that you do not adopt to SAVE A SOUL. You adopt to become a parent and to love and accept a child. What would you have done if these problems had occurred in a birth child? Give him back? No, I didn’t think so, yet you’d be stunned how many times I’ve been asked about that.
I really caution people with biological children to really, really THINK before adding to their family by adoption. Yes, even babies–it all begins with LOSS.
I hope the parents who did all this to Hana and her siblings get maximum sentences.
Thank you so much for posting this article. It was very well done. I heard the case discussed on a Seattle radio talk show today. It does seem to be getting more coverage beyond Skagit Valley. I hope that this continues and that people become more educated and aware of the issues surrounding adoption. I know that my eyes have been opened and I thank you for that.
I too will be reading your blog long after the trial is over in order to keep informed and find out what I can do personally. I feel invested in the idea of honoring Hana and not allowing people to forget what happened.
I’m curious about the parents having two defense attorneys each. Is one parent looking better than the other to the jury. Carri certainly is every bit the sadistic dungeon keeper and was actually responsible for Hana’s death by hypothermia. Larry was away most of the day and wasn’t home for the actual death. He seemed to be involved in the torture, based on the testimony that he hit the kids in the head. Carri also seems to have the more bombastic defense attorney, Rachel Forde, who seems to be doing more damage than good to her case.
How is it looking to the observers in court? Is it likely he will get a lesser conviction and sentence than his wife?
I’m also wondering about the bio kids. If they are living with relatives are those relatives equally off kilter as the Williams’s? Are they going to public school? I hope those kids get some deprogramming help so they can stop being perplexed with why CPS removed the remaining children after one child was punished to death.
Rachel Forde is Larry’s defense attorney. Larry and Carri are charged with the same crimes, and my guess is that their attorneys will begin a vigorous defense of their individual clients once the prosecution rests. Both pairs of defense attorneys had an interest in discrediting Immanuel’s testimony. Now they may defend their own clients more individually.
I think there’s a consensus that Carri did most of the actual disciplining/punishing/torturing, but that Larry knew about it. Religious beliefs about “man being head of the household” might be a part of it.
My understanding is that some of the bio kids are with relatives and some are in foster care. I believe that those who are school age are going to public school, butI don’t have a lot of detail about that.
I agree with your hope that all the kids are getting effective counseling. It’s a long road they have ahead of them, regardless of the trial’s outcome.
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My heart hurts every day for Hana. She died of a broken heart, a broken spirit. I question every day how we could have been there for her, having no idea what she was going through. I will think of her all the days of my life, remembering to give my kids an extra hug in her memory every day. Thank you for your blog….and dear Immanuel…I am so thankful that you were able to be strong and testify….we have been praying for your strength….
Thoughtful words, Julie. Thank you very much.
Thank you for being a witness to this process. I agree with everything you’ve said here. I’m at a loss for how to do what you’ve outlined needs to be done. I’ll follow your lead and try to witness and more where I can.
Thanks so much, Kristine. I’ll be posting more details and possibilities in the coming weeks, and whatever you can do will be wonderful: small steps and large steps all move us along the journey.
I am just wondering if the Williams parents are found not guilty of all charges and their normal lives are allowed to resume, would Immanuel be required to go back and live with them.
I don’t know the answer, but I can’t imagine this happening. It would not be in Immanuel’s best interest at all. My understanding is that he is doing well with his foster family. I would guess that, whatever the outcome of the trial, the Williamses would terminate their parental rights to Immanuel and he could then be adopted by another family. Immanuel also has a guardian ad litem appointed by the court, and I’m sure that person is looking into next steps for Immanuel as well.
Thanks! That puts my mind at ease.
I am also wondering if people on the jury might make the connection that Immanuel’s violent behavior in the foster home, is the victim becoming the victimizer syndrome that happens to abused children–especially when heading into their teen years. Also, the defense is trying make Hana older than 16 and when you look at the most recent picture of poor Hana with her hair chopped off, and compare her with almost any healthy 16 year old girl, it makes the case even stronger for her being starved and abused.