August 28: Carri Williams Testifies, Part Two of Today’s Report

Carrie Williams, looking toward the jury

Carrie Williams, looking toward the jury

Carri Williams took the stand today, to defend herself against charges of homicide by abuse and manslaughter of her adopted Ethiopian daughter Hana and against a change of  first degree assault of her adopted Ethiopian son Immanuel.

You can read about the testimony of Larry Williams here.  Carri started off, under questioning, by saying she “very much” loves her husband, whom she married in 1989 when she was 19 years old.


The Adoption Process

In November 2007, they learned about Immanuel, a deaf boy in Ethiopia available for adoption. Carri asked Larry about adopting him, and Larry agreed. They saw Hana on a video from their adoption agency, and decided to adopt her too. For the paperwork, they had to decide on a birth date. WHile the agency gave them no restrictions on choosing a day or year, they decided to keep the year the orphanage had provided, 1997. They chose July, because there were not as many birthdays in their family during the summer months. They chose 19 because Carri’s birth day also falls on the 19th (December), she and Larry were married on the 19th, and Carri was 19 when she got married.

Immanuel had many scars when he arrived in August 2008, she said, on his face and back. She didn’t point them out to him, so as not to make him self-conscious. She did notice some challenging behaviors early on. After the first doctor’s appointment, a few days after arrival, they stopped a clothing store. She went to take his hand, and “would go limp,” she said. He was also violent and punched his brothers in the face. While this aggressive behavior improved gradually over time, he had other oppositional behaviors, such as wetting himself. He would be dry for a week or two, in response to “correction, ” and then the behavior would start again.

Hana, at least initially, had no behavior issues. Over time though, by around January 2010, she “put walls up, and “became oppositional in everything except eating, sleeping, and going to the bathroom.” Hana “found a way to be opposing to everything, combing her hair, sweeping the floor, making the bed.” Carri used the word “oppositional” many times today in relation to Hana.

Other themes of today’s testimony were Rules (they were for everyone, and Larry and Carri had the same expectations for Hana and Immanuel as for the other children) swats (a light tap or swat on the hand or leg, meant as a reminder), and spanking (a response to a deliberate act of disobedience, often involving a switch, almost always on the buttocks, and harder than a swat).

Larry and Carri agreed on all the rules and the consequences.  In addition to swats and spankings, consequences could include missing out on a treat (such as cake), having to stop playing a game and just watch, and getting additional chores. Hana and Immanuel received more chores because they disobeyed more. All the children had received swats and spankings along the way. Spankings could be done with a wooden spoon (though that was pretty much only on the 3 older boys when they were little), a switch (a 1/2 inch plastic plumbing line, about 16 inches long), a belt, and glue sticks.

(True confession: I was not spanked as a child, but I get the idea. I haven’t a clue though about glue sticks in disciplining or punishing children. I know the 3 inch ones for gluing triangles on pumpkins for kids’ art projects. The reference here seems far more nefarious.)

Carri said the 3 older sons had permission to swat younger siblings on the hand, but not to give spankings. She contradicted herself later in her recounting of the night of Hana’s death, when all 3 boys were instructed to go out and spank Hana to get her to go inside.

There was much discussion of the exact timing and nature of Immanuel’s scars; Carri said there were no new ones after his arrival. There was much discussion of where exactly Immanuel and Hana were hit. Carri said there was never any bruising, bleeding, or scars from spanking. Hana and Immanuel were sent outside to eat only in nice weather, never in winter. The longest Hana was ever outside, when she had been oppositional, was 2 or 3 hours. (The exception, of course, would be the night she died, when she’d been outside for about 9 hours.)

The Port-A-Potty

Hana began menstruating about a month after she arrived in the US. Sometime around summer 2010, Hana repeatedly (over the course of 3 months or so) smeared her menstrual blood around the walls and door of the family bathroom.  This was, Carri said, “inappropriate social behavior” and since Hana was a Hepatitis B carrier, this “blood borne disease” carried a risk to other family members.

Carri testified that Larry suggested, and Carri agreed, to get a Port-A-Potty for Hana to use, outside the barn, about 80 feet from the house. Larry testified yesterday that the Port-a-Potty was Carri’s idea.

(Maureen: I can’t help but wonder–why not try a therapist, to see why Hana was doing this, if it is true? Doesn’t it seem there are a few issues here besides a child not practicing good hygiene? Why a Port-A-Potty?)

The Outdoor Shower

Carri testified today that the shower was Carri’s idea, and Larry agreed. Larry testified yesterday that it was Carri’s idea. Carri testified today that Larry built it. Larry testified yesterday that he did not build it. Hosing off Immanuel outside when he wet himself was Larry’s idea, said Carri, and Carri agreed.

(For those wondering, neither Hana nor Immanuel had been to a doctor since 2009.)

Sleeping in the Shower Room, the Barn, the Hallway,the Closet

Immanuel and Hana both started out sleeping in their own beds, in the boys’ and girls’ bedroom respectively. Immanuel moved to the floor beside his bed, because he had been wetting his bed.  Then he slept in the shower room, because he was stealing food. He always had all his bed linens: sheets, blankets, pillows, bedspread, plus blankets underneath “for comfort.”

Hana moved to the floor, the barn, the shower room, the nursery floor, and the nursery closet, because of stealing junk food and sweets. She also had all her linens with her, except in the barn where she had a sleeping bag.

Many of these alternative sleeping arrangements were Larry’s ideas, and Carri agreed. Hana didn’t sleep in these places all the time, but it certainly seemed to be frequent in the last part of her life.

The shower room and the nursery closet locked from the outside, and had light switches controlled from the outside.

Larry installed the lock for the nursery closet, Carri testified. Locking Hana in the closet was Carri’s idea; Larry agreed. In addition to her linens, Hana had books, a Bible, knitting, paper and pencil, or other items. She would be locked in the closet for being oppositional. It was Carri’s idea for Hana to be in there during the day. The longest time Hana was in there was 10 hours, Carri estimated. She wasn’t in it every day or every night.


Hana and Immanuel were given cold food if they were oppositional at the table. Larry and Carri agreed about this. It was Carri’s idea to give them frozen food, though Carri said she often left it out on the counter a half hour or so before serving it. Larry and Carri also agreed about  (and both served) the wet sandwiches, which were given when the children did not cooperate.

Larry and Carri both thought up and agreed to having the children miss meals for bad behavior.  The children would get the previous meal at the next meal time, along with the current meal. Both Hana and Immanuel ended up eating outside (or at least separate from the family) because they disobeyed more.

The Night of Hana’s Death

Carri spent a good deal of time weeping and describing the night of May 12, 2011, which she remembered in great detail. I’m going to use Gina Cole’s article to sum up Carri’s testimony. Gina has been doing a great job covering the trial. You can find her article about today’s testimony here. This is an excerpt written by Gina:

“Hana’s final hours

Carri Williams wiped her eyes, sniffed and at times paused to cover her red face with her hands as one of her lawyers, Wes Richards, had her tell the story of the night her daughter died.

Hana had been outside since early afternoon and refused to come inside, Carri Williams said, her lower lip quivering. Hana had refused to come inside before but always came back in eventually, she said.

About 5 p.m., it started drizzling. A few hours later, still outside, Hana started “throwing herself down” on the gravel, pavement and grass behind the house, bloodying her hands and knees, she said.

“I decided I couldn’t watch it anymore, so I went inside,” she said, later noting she thought the girl was falling on purpose because she’d seen her do that before.

Hana wouldn’t come in for dinner, so Carri Williams sent three of her sons at various points to give her “swats on her bottom” and tell her to exercise to keep warm, she said.

Carri Williams took food outside to Hana, but the girl would just put food on her fork and bring it to her mouth without eating it, she said.

She eventually tried to carry Hana inside herself but couldn’t because the girl went limp in her arms, she said. She asked her oldest son to help, but when they came out, Hana had undressed — a sign of hypothermia that Carri Williams said she didn’t recognize.

“Because modesty is important in our family, I told him to go in the house, to forget it,” she said. She brought Hana dry clothes, and she and her oldest daughter checked on her every five to 10 minutes.

About midnight, the then-12-year-old Williams sister saw Hana face-down in the yard, naked and unmoving. Carri Williams said she covered Hana with a sheet, had her sons help carry the girl inside, checked Hana’s pulse, called Larry Williams and then called 911.

CPR, paramedics and doctors at Skagit Valley Hospital could not revive the girl.

“I wish I would have known she was in distress because then I would have acted sooner, and I believe Hana would still be here,” Carri Williams said. “I wish that I could trade places with her and be in the ground instead of her. I’ve gone to her grave and told her that I was sorry, that I didn’t know.” “

Court resumes tomorrow at 9am. I am guessing that the defense will continue to question Carri, and then the prosecutors will cross-examine. Defense will then rebut. The judge asked the lawyers for input on instructions for the jury, a good sign that perhaps the trial is nearing an end. Maybe next week the jury will start to deliberate? Hard to know.

I just keep hoping, along with lots of others: Justice for Hana, justice for Immanuel.

24 thoughts on “August 28: Carri Williams Testifies, Part Two of Today’s Report

  1. When I was a new mom, I read To Train Up a Child. I had many qualms about it for many (obvious) reasons but one subtle one that bothered me so much was the PRIDE of the Pearls.

    I subscribed to their free magazine for years purely for the freak show factor. The attitude of pride was glaring in every single thing they wrote. So much that it was actually laughable. (It is no longer amusing to me.)

    When I read about this trial, the element of the pride of the Williams is so overwhelming. I am sure the “We have many other wonderful children, we don’t need anyone to tell us how to raise kids” is what kept them from seeking help with Hana and Immanuel when they were so very obviously outside of their skillset.

    This is yet another example of what my husband always says – the root of ALL sin is pride.

    • I completely agree! I have read some of the Pearls books because of having so many people ask what I thought of them. And they are full if pride! Their applications are often not Biblical, and can be countered by scripture.

  2. Re: Glue Sticks.
    As pps have said, glue sticks come in longer, thicker sizes. But the really horrifying thing about them, is that the practice is copied from a practice by gang members and/or other criminal groups for beating those who “offend” them. They beat the “offenders” with glue sticks in order to cause severe pain & internal injuries without leaving visible welts and/or bruises.
    Which is to say: the glue sticks (along with the pieces of plastic piping material) are used as a torture device. Criminals know this……yet the Pearl book continues to recommend these as “Biblical”. There is nothing Biblical about it; this is a tactic straight from the bowels of hell.

  3. How heartbreaking and tragic to come from hardship in Africa to horror in America. How monstrous to have people claiming the Bible as their reference point but not obeying it! In Proverbs 19:22 The Bible tells us that what is desirable in a person is “kindness”.
    In Ephesians 6:4 God’s word commands fathers to not provoke their children to wrath. In many other places in scripture “love” and “kindness” are exalted. 1 Corinthians 13 tells exactly what God’s definition of love is. It is patient, kind, longsuffering, it bears all things. People that commit acts of abuse and claim that they are following the Bible are self deceived and are lying. They may use scripture such as Proverbs 23:13-14 to justify their abuse, but they are not understanding those verses in the light of other passages such as Ephesians 6:4. Any form of a abuse will provoke a child to anger. Many people who do not spank their children proke their children to wrath by yelling and other forms of verbal abuse. Is it wrong and harmful to correct your child when they need help and guidance? No, of course not. Is it wrong to yell and scream at your child to correct them when they need help and guidance? yes of course it is! It is not the verbal correction that is wrong, it is how it is done. In the same way Spanking is not harmful or abusive if done in a truly Biblical way. I was spanked by my parents, and I have a wonderful relationship with them. They are loving people who did their best to correct me according to the Bible. I have raised two children and have a wonderful relationship with them and their spouses and my precious granddaughter. We believe in the Bible, but we embrace all of it. And if some one truly knows their Bible and embraces all of it, their is no room for abuse in any of their relationships (physical, or verbal, or emotional). These people, who claim that they were parenting based on the Bible, are self decieved at the best, and bold faced liars at the worst. The Christ that they say they beleive in is the “Father of the fatherless” and the avenger of the helpless. He is the God who tells his people to love according to 1 Corinthians 13, in an amazing sacrificial way. He also tells us that Christians (true Christians) will be known by their love (1 John 4:7-8). There are many who claim to be christians that are not. In the last days their will be many that will say “Lord, Lord” and he will say “depart from me,” because these people showed by their behavior that they were not true follows of Christ (Mathew 25: 31-46). My point is that these people who took in these precious needy children, did not follow Christ, or the Bible in their care and lack of care of these poor children. If the courts do not punish them, the God of the Bible they claim to believe, will. Because He is the “Father to the fatherless” and the avenger of the helpless and the oppressed!

  4. Pingback: Williams Trial – Day 23: Testimony of Carri Williams 1st Day | Why Not Train A Child?

  5. This case breaks my heart.

    My mother was abused in much the same way Hanah and Immanuel were.
    I don’t believe in god but, by the grace of their grandmother, my mother and her 2 siblings were saved.

    I just lost my mother this month at a very young age and after suffering from a cruel disease.

    Justice never had their say in the case of my mothers abusers. Her abusers lived out their lives, and hopefully, relived the horrors they inflicted on their children.

    Hanah’s “parents” now will have their judgement day in court and will be set free or be sent to pay for their absolutely inhumane treatment of this precious life, and the life of her brother.

    Hanah’s life.

    I find peace knowing that Hanah and my mother both are now free of the loss of childhood, the loss of parental comfort, the loss of understanding that a parent should give, the loss of love that their hearts so desired. Free of their physical and emotional pain.

    I pray that Immanuel and the other children of these monsters find peace in their hearts and a feeling of safety and love in this world. As every child deserves.

  6. Members in the Remnant Fellowship group of churches headed by evangelical Gwen Shamblin commonly used hot glue gun glue sticks (which come in ten inch lengths) as instruments of punishment because they left no notable bruises on children, much like the plumbing line recommended by Michael Pearl which both groups boast for their lack of propensity to leave lasting marks and bruising on the skin. This was discussed in court proceedings when the parents of eight year old Joseph Smith were found guilty of his death in 2003. Both parents received a sentence of life plus 30 years. Janet Heimlich discusses this in her book, “Breaking Their Will,” and you can read more at a Christian site that discusses aberrant, high-demand religious groups called Spiritwatch DOT org. (This is a Christian “apologetics” site, a transliteration of the New Testament Greek word which means “to give a defense” for one’s beliefs. Christian apologists like the host of this site and my own try to hold other Christians accountable for behavior or teachings that are notably not Christian.)

    The problems suffered by Hana and Immanuel who are raised within these fringe evangelical groups are not limited to Michael Pearl’s followers. Per the Spiritwatch site, a former church member, Teri Phillips, notes concerns about the long-term effects of this type of corporal punishment. (In the anti-cult resources, the adult children who survive these systems are called “Second Generation Adults,” and there are many good resources available to help them when they are ready for them.) But it makes you wonder what all of the Williams children will face when they are old enough to make their own decisions and pursue their own healing.

    >>>> We especially worry about the impact the Remnant teachings are having on the kids. Yes, on the surface it may look like the kids are obedient, happy, and have high self-esteem, but if you are around them for very long, you detect fear and anxiety in them. They are not encouraged to think and speak for themselves. They are pushed aside while the adults do their thing. I foresee that when they are grown, they will either have lots of anger and rebellion or very, very low self-esteem, and some will turn against religion altogether. Adult ex-cult members who were children raised in these types of abusive situations experience the above reactions to growing up in a cult. You can read this on any apologetic site. I do know that the older Smith boy has been withdrawn from a foster home because he was aggressively hurting the foster siblings. Maybe the effects of being in Remnant fellowship are beginning for him. <<<<

    • The tragic case of Hana and Immanuel is a terrible intersection between some of the failings and shortcomings of the international adoption process and community, and those of the fundamentalist Christian homeschooling movement (with the latter being far more at issue, I think). Sadly, there are few people who know enough about both sets of issues to raise the alarm about what can happen when they dovetail. But I think cases like Hana’s are finally bringing sad truths to the light of day. I just wish it didn’t take situations like these for it to happen.

  7. Really good blog entries!! Gives a lot better perspective than what the few media outlets that chose to cover this story are doing. This lady seems really self absorbed and her testimony has only shows what a flawed religious logic she has. Her biological children are better off without them, they should be shipped to prison for life!! Just TRAGIC all the age testimony!! It should be life in prison if not death penalty for that at ANY age!! Hope the jury convicts to the fullest extent!!!! ANIMALS!!

  8. Re the glue sticks……
    In industrial applications, ex. airplane making, where a glue gun is left on for hours at a time (unlike craft or hobby) glue sticks are available in lengths of 12″ to 24″ and longer. These sticks are very heavy and dense with only a small amount of flexibility. If I had to defend myself against a close quarters attacker and had one of those glue sticks available, I would consider it an excellent weapon.

    My heart is broken for Hana and all of the surviving children in this family. Thank you Maureen for your faithful attendance and keen observations at this trial. I trust that farther along, much good will come from your work in this time and place…..

  9. I was confused about “glue sticks” and was surprised to find that that they come in 15 inch lengths.
    Maureen-After watching the trial and hearing “oppositional” as many times as I did, I realized Carrie may finally be educating herself on many of the possible behaviors that may come with children of trauma. Hoarding may be something she might add to her google search. These behaviors needed empathy, patience and guidance not correction. I was relieved when the judge did not allow her to testify as an “expert” on motherhood.
    Another thing that bothered me was that everything was going well for the first year or so. I understand “honeymoon period” but for Hana to become “oppositional” in just the last months before she past does not make sense to me. I am praying it does not make sense to the jury either.

    • I thought exactly this same thing. “Oppositional” behavior usually rears its head much sooner, within weeks (or possible months) of being settled in an environment.

  10. I don’t believe the blood story for a second. Remember when the biological children were asked what Hana did to cause the punishments they were often at a loss for words and then when pushed further they come up with things like bad handwriting, cutting the grass too short and the like. If they had seen the blood incident or even heard it mentioned, that would have been the first thing to fly out of their mouths.
    Maureen, thank you for this and thank you especially for attending and being counted for Hana. I wish I could be there but I live in the East Coast.

    • I also don’t believe the story about lice being the reason they shaved her head. When I was reading up on lice, when my son got lice last year, I read that lice are less likely to occur in African hair due to the structure of the hair shaft. If she had lice then every kid in the household would have had lice and none of them had their heads shaved. Also, who would she have gotten the lice from. She didn’t have any of her own friends to interact with. I believe the bio child and that it was some capricious punishment for cutting the grass too short. The other explanation that she didn’t rinse the shampoo out of her hair is also believable because who is going to linger out in 40 degree weather as 40 degree water is coming out of a hose at you.

      • I don’t know if it’s true or not that Hana did that, but from personal experience with children who have undergone trauma, elimination disorders and incidents of acting out by doing socially unacceptable things with bodily fluids aren’t uncommon.Children with stress-induced psychological problems will defecate on or in various things, and sometimes smear feces. So maybe Hana did this, but if so, she was just showing classic signs of being severely traumatized, and somehow the Williams thought that they could beat/starve/”Boot Camp” her out of it. I’m perfectly ready to believe that Hana and Immanuel exhibited behaviors that alarmed the Williams and were outside the scope of what they anticipated or could handle. But THAT’S WHEN YOU TAKE THEM TO A THERAPIST AND AGGRESSIVELY ENLIST THE HELP OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE EXPERIENCE WITH THESE ISSUES. If they had a shred of decency, they could easily have reached out to a therapist–even one from their conservative circles could have given them advice and coping skills for these behaviors. But they didn’t seek help or advice, and they willingly went down the path of increasing abuse, to the point of murder. They should be held responsible, and I hope the fundamentalist circles that influenced their childrearing philosophy take note of where the mindset behind books like “To Train Up A Child” leads. I grew up in those circles, and sadly, most of the things that went on in the Williams household sound very familiar to me. My parents’ childrearing mentality was harmful enough to their biological children. Had they adopted children like Hana and Immanuel, who were already severely traumatized and were facing all the attachment issues and cultural shock and adjustment that comes with international, interracial adoption, the outcome could well have been similar.

        P.S. The gluesticks they’re talking about are these:

  11. I can’t even comment on anything else, so I’m going to write this.
    RE: Glue sticks.
    Do they mean the glue sticks like kids use in kindergarten, or do they mean glue sticks like the kind you put in a hot glue gun?

    The kind that goes in a hot glue gun is somewhat flexible, so I can see how it might be used as a way to hit someone.

    I was spanked as a child, but with a hand or a wooden spoon. I feel like once you get more ‘creative’ than that, you’ve gone too far. (And I won’t spank my children. It doesn’t do anything to help or ‘correct’ IMO.)

    • It is the glue sticks used in a hot glue gun. The ones I have used (for gluing) are about 4″ long but apparently they are also sold about two feet long and thicker than the mini ones. I think this has to do with the way these parents use the Bible literally as child raising book. In all the translations of the Bible, at some point a translator used the word “rod” and glue sticks and plumbing line are rod shaped, so these parents run with it. These rod shaped implements can do a lot of physical tissue damage.. In Lydia Schatz it broke down the underlying tissue and caused organ failure.

      What bothers me is that a lot of these parents became born again Christians as adults, and they themselves went to public schools, were not “trained” with glue stick spankings several times a day or isolated from others. They have bought into this extreme social experiment and in many cases produce damaged and dysfunctional adults who suffer from PTSD, if they survive to adulthood.

  12. Hmmm. Seems like if she could get her into a closet to lock her in, she could get her into the house. Why not wrap a blanket around her and have the sons carry her in? Why not call her father, the police officer for help? Because they’d see the signs of abuse? I wonder if she really thought all this was helping or if she was getting meaner and meaner in her need for control? I have 5 adopted children. The behaviors can wear you down. That’s why I would never consider home schooling them. The seven hours they were gone each day provided a break for them and myself. Mine have been given sandwiches and sent to bed (inside the house in their own room). I don’t understand the wet sandwich thing. And since food is often an issue with orpans they need to eat to trust that the adult will always provide for them. This case is heartbreaking. I’m sure the parents didn’t go into it planning to abuse their children. I just wish they had found a therapist trained in adoption issues. But it is hard. I do know that.

  13. Aside from having starved her adopted child to death, Cari seems to have some issues with food. Didn’t a guest who ate dinner at the house say that nobody got enough food? She looks kind of skeletal herself for someone who has had 9 or more pregnancies, 7 births, and has been eating prison food for the last couple of years. I don’t see the point of the grandmother saying that Hana had two or three helpings at dinner. She just proved that Hana tried to get a lot of food into herself when given the opportunity and failed at refuting that Hana died of starvation.

    If they are so much in love with each other, why doesn’t one fall on the sword for the other. Perhaps the finger pointing is the result of the two defendants having no contact with each other. I would think that the four attorneys would have conferred and come up with such a plan though.

    An even more likely and much more easily anticipated scenario than Hana dying of hypothermia would be one or both of the kids dying in a fire, locked in their various closets while the rest of the family escapes. How can two adults fail to consider that.

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