August 27: Larry Williams Takes The Stand

Larry Williams took the stand today after his oldest son finished. You can read about Joshua Williams’ testimony here.

Much of Larry Williams’ this afternoon testimony consisted of “I don’t remember.” Some of it was also long pauses and the pronouncement: “It was Carri’s decision.” Carri, according to Larry, decided to construct and installed the post for the outdoor shower. Carri decided the closet would be a good place to put Hana for hours, with a lock and light on the outside. Carri decided the Port-a-Potty would be a good idea. Carri decided to cut Hana’s hair off when Hana was not rinsing the shampoo out. Carri was the one who suggested that Immanuel be hit on the soles of his feet. Larry never hit the children on bare skin. And Larry had nothing to do with Hana’s showers outside.

Several times, Larry said he did not approve of his wife’s decisions. Why did he go along with the decision to put Hana in the closet? “The way Carri presented it, it was to help Hana.”

In spring 2011, the family was in astonishing disarray, from what we’ve heard in this trial. Larry said he’d decided to stop spanking Immanuel and Hana, because “different tactics” were needed–the spanking wasn’t working. Larry also wanted to stop the other tactics (the use of the closet, the outdoor shower, the Port-a-Potty) because, he said, “It was clear that what we were doing wasn’t working.”

Larry testified that he expressed this to Carri, but things didn’t change.

The prosecutor asked Larry why he didn’t take things into his own hands. Larry said, tremulously, “Carri was a wonderful mother. What she had done had always worked really well with the kids. I wish I had (taken things into my own hands), looking back.”

Larry worked at Boeing, in Everett, Washington, about 45 miles from the family home in Sedro-Woolley. He was gone, Monday through Friday, from about noon to midnight. He worked occasional overtime and weekends. Carri was a homeschooling mom, he said.

The Adoption Decision

Larry and Carri had both always wanted lots of children. When their last biological daughter was born in 2004, Carri had two ectopic pregnancies and her fallopian tubes were removed. They’d always thought it would be interesting to adopt a deaf child, since Carri was trained in sign language. In 2007, a church friend had called Carri because the friend was thinking about adopting a deaf child from Ethiopia and wanted some help or advice from Carri. Larry and Carri thought of this as an opportunity presenting itself for them. The DVD that their adoption agency (Adoption Advocates International of Washington state) sent to them included footage of Immanuel and of Hana. “Our hearts went out to her,” Larry said.


(From Maureen: And so two older, unrelated children from Ethiopia were placed with the Williamses. You can view my thoughts regarding adoption agency issues in this post.)

The Arrival and Early Days

Hana and Immanuel arrived at SeaTac Airport just 9 months after the decision to adopt, Larry said.

(Maureen: Five years ago this very month they arrived. Three and a half years later, Hana was dead.)

Larry said the whole family was very excited about the adoption, and Carri taught everyone more sign language, since Immanuel knew very little upon arrival. Hana was, in teh early days, a quiet, well-behaved child, according to Larry. She loved to read. Larry said she could read English well, but not speak or understand very well. She spoke with a European accent, he said. She picked up English quickly. Larry smiled as he recalled that Hana was left-handed, like him: “We were the only ones in the family.” He called her affectionate and playful, in the early days.

Immanuel was quite different, and had more behavioral issues. Since he was deaf, language and communication were big issues. Immanuel was also an aggressive boy, who would bite, kick, and hit. The discipline strategy then was to say “No!,” to sit with him, to help him understand what he was doing wrong. Larry often used the word “correcting” rather than “punishing.”

Years 2 and 3

These were the years of spanking, of outdoor showers, of the closet, of the Port-a-potty. Larry recounted various times that he used the switch on Immanuel, and the two (maybe three) times he’d used a belt on him (never the buckle), though he couldn’t recall why exactly. It was “a training type of teaching,” he said. Immanuel didn’t follow directions, Larry said, though he couldn’t be more precise than that. The “corrections” began for Immanuel around 2009; for Hana, not until summer 2010.

Immanuel also had a problem with wetting himself, which Larry said Immanuel “did on purpose.” The punishment could be a cold shower outside (with clothes on) if he’d been outside, or a cold bath or shower inside (without clothes) if he’s been inside. Larry never punished Immanuel for wetting the bed, said he said. In fact, daughter Cara and son Johnny had also wet their beds until they were 9 or 10; all 3 children wore diapers every night.

Hana’s behavior deteriorated, according to Larry Williams, over the last year of her life. He said Hana and Immanuel were outside to eat because of “disagreeable behavior,” and “not wanting to cooperate.” Hana and Immanuel were fed cold leftovers, and frozen food. (The defense attorney, yesterday I think, asked the physician witness to confirm that frozen food has the same nutritional value as cooked.)

Hana stole food. Larry said he caught her with bread that had a jar of jam and chocolate syrup on it. The punishment at first was to sleep alone in the loft of the barn for a few nights. Hana apparently continued to steal food, and moved from sleeping in the barn to the shower room, to the floor of the nursery, to the closet of the nursery.

Hana and Immanuel were the only Williams’ children who slept in the shower room as a punishment. Hana was the only one who was punished (corrected, disciplined) by sleeping in the barn (which had no electricity). Hana was the only one who was locked in the closet. Larry didn’t remember if he’d used the belt on any of the other children. He didn’t remember why Hana and Immanuel weren’t allowed to celebrate Christmas with the rest of the family in 2011.

The Port-A-Potty

Larry said one day at home he heard Carri gasp and turned to see Hana smearing menstrual blood on the door. Carri decided a Port-a-Potty was the solution, and Larry said they both thought it would be short-term. He couldn’t remember exactly when they got it, but soon after the blood incident. Both Larry and Carri would walk Hana outside to use the Port-A-Potty. It was serviced in January and May of 2011. Hana was the only one who used it. Larry said they thought Hana would improve her hygiene habits, and then they’d keep the Port-a-Potty for general use outside their home.

Hana’s Age

This is a constant issue in this trial, because of the homicide by abuse charge. This serious charge stands only if Hana was not 16 at the time of death. Larry said that he and Carri, at the request of the adoption agency, chose Hana’s birth date: July 19, 1997. Over time, though, they grew to believe she was older. Larry said Hana told him at some point that she was 16, and he filled out an application for an age change, to put her year of birth as 1994. The change was never approved.

The prosecutor showed Larry two documents that Larry had signed, showing Hana’s birth date as July 19, 1997. One was a homeschooling form; the other was Hana’s death certificate.

The Night of Hana’s Death

When Larry talked about arriving home after midnight on May 12, 2011, he paused, and choked up a bit. His lawyer Rachel Forde asked him, “What was in your head then?” He said he saw Hana lying on the floor near the front door. Carri was giving her chest compressions. “Hana was naked on the floor,” Larry said. “She looked really thin. I was struck by that.”

The trial continues tomorrow at 9am. Carri’s defense attorneys have 3 witnesses, and I am guessing that Larry will again be on the stand.

21 thoughts on “August 27: Larry Williams Takes The Stand

  1. Pingback: Pro tip for aspiring adoption fraudsters: Don’t email your fake USCIS documents! | third time charmed

  2. Pingback: Reflections on the Williams Trial | Why Not Train A Child?

  3. So, was she outside in the cold at night then?
    We have had to take children to the bathroom late at night until they were in their preteens. For two children we have now, it is sometimes laziness. We still take them. If they wet, the pre rinse their bedding and PJs when they shower. (warm shower, not cold!)

  4. Maureen, thank you for your astonishing courage and persistence in attending the trial and reporting so completely. I can barely manage to read about what happened to Hana and Emmanuel, and hearing it all first-hand must be overwhelming.

    Thank you.

    + Michael

  5. I wet the bed until 12. My mom tried Horstail, waking me up at night once (and then twice), not allowing me to drink after 6pm (bed at 8pm sharp)….. the list goes on. I eventually slept on a linoleum mat on the floor with a flat sheet (this was also in the tropics where the temperature never got below 78 at the lowest). Then, at 12ish I suddenly stopped. I cannot to this day explain how “I did it” because it was seriously NOT something I had control over.
    I also “stole” food quite often. I was young and active and hungry.

    He is definitely failing here as “head of the house” blaming his wife so much. Gosh, like they would convict her and not hold him responsible? Isn’t a patriarch supposed to rule with an iron fist?

    • It bothered me when my sister got annoyed when her daughter wet the bed. A kid can’t control what his body does while sleeping and you wouldn’t want him to try. It’s upsetting enough for the kid to wake up on cold wet sheets, I would comfort my kids by getting them rinsed off in a warm shower, new pajamas and into my bed.

      The obvious thing to do would be to take the kid to a doctor to check for physical reasons why the boy wet his pants, and then go on to a therapist in the unlikely event that he was doing it on purpose. Boeing probably offers a premium health care plan with small copays. Not taking the kids to the doctor was neglectful.

  6. What this family views as stealing food, any other family would see as a really hungry child needing something to eat. Menstruation can be messy, and some smearing goes on in trying to deal with it. I wonder if they gave her tampons and pads. Since she was homeschooled, she probably hadn’t had any health or sex education classes and being isolated she didn’t have any friends to discuss having a a period with.

    With regard to the adoption decision, there is no mention being fans of Above Rubies and the foreign orphan collecting for God that they were promoting.

    • I wouldn’t be surprised if she really did smear her menstrual blood. If you enough adoption and foster parent blogs and forums, it’s not unheard of to read reports of traumatized kids doing inappropriate things with their bodily fluids (peeing all over their room, smearing feces, etc.). And I could believe that the parents just chose not to tell the other kids the exact details about what happened. In a family as repressed as that one, that just might not have been considered appropriate conversation.

      So I could totally believe that the smearing of menstrual blood happened, especially considering that she was traumatized by the adoption, was dealing with hormones/adolescence, and probably didn’t speak any language fluently at that point. (Internationally adopted kids often lose their first language within months but aren’t fully fluent in their new language for a long time after that. Can you imagine how scary and frustrating that must be–to be 12 years old and have no language?!) That’s a lot for a kid to be dealing with all at once.

      The things is, if I knew about that type of behavior, the Williams’s should have too. There is no excuse to react that way. Either they weren’t educated or they just didn’t care. And even if it were completely unique behavior, it still wouldn’t have justified the Williams’s response.

      • Quick edit — “no language” is an exaggeration. My point is more that these kids’ English isn’t always as fluent as it might seem and I’ve heard it can be a scary thing for the kids to go through when they realize they can’t speak their first language anymore.

        In any case, my point isn’t to defame Hana, just to point out that even if the blood-smearing was true, it’s not such uncommon or egregious behavior.

      • You’re right on point. I have wondered about what the extent of the preparation was for the adoption of two, older, transracial, Ethiopian children, one of whom was deaf. Everything suggests that (to put it mildly) the preparation was insufficient, the parents did not exercise the serious effort needed in understanding the children’s realities, and the parents refused to get minimal assistance for these children. It’s horrifying.

  7. Pingback: Williams Trial – Day 22: Testimonies of Joshua and Larry Williams | Why Not Train A Child?

  8. Thank you for your coverage. This case just has me in tears. The fact that the defense seems to think the notion that frozen food has the same nutritional value makes it okay to feed to children just saddens me. In fact, most everything the defense has done saddens me.

  9. Thank you so very much for giving those of us that are unable to attend….such an indepth account of the proceedings…..again thank you Maureen…

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