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.
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.
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.