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.)
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.