I’ve written a lot about Larry and Carri Williams, about the murder and assault charges against them, about the 7 week trial, and about their sentencing hearing October 29. This may well be my last post about them, though I will continue to write about adoption reform.
Gina Cole, a reporter for the Skagit Valley Herald, covered the trial from the first day of jury selection. She’s done a great job. Follow her on Facebook. Her most recent article, “Decades in Prison for Williams Couple,” is available here.
Here’s an excerpt from Gina’s article:
Tuesday’s (October 29, 2013) sentencing hearing was a chance for the public to help argue for a harsher or lighter sentence. A few people addressed Cook in person; others, including the two oldest Williams sons, submitted letters.
“This incident regarding (the adopted children) was the result of the total unpreparedness of my parents to take in two children who were entirely unfamiliar with our nation, culture and way of life,” wrote Joshua Williams, who is stationed in Korea with the U.S. Army. He pleaded with the court to reunite his family. “… Is it not punishment enough to watch helplessly as your entire life crashes down around you?”
Joshua’s plea, arguing that his parents were totally unprepared, is haunting. (Referring to the abuse, torture, assault of Immanuel and death of Hana–Joshua’s siblings–as “this incident” startling as well.) Did the adoption agency, Adoption Advocates International of Port Angeles, WA, fail to educate Larry and Carri fully about the possible challenges of international adoption? AAI is licensed in Washington state, is a member of the Joint Council on International Children’s Services, and is accredited by the Council on Accreditation for Hague Convention adoption. That COA accreditation is time-consuming and expensive; it is supposed to be rigorous and thorough. There is a place for public comment on the COA link above.
A lot of people have asked if the adoption agency was punished as well in this case. My understanding is that there is no legal reason or process for that. Hana and Immanuel’s adoptions were finalized–they were the full legal children of Larry and Carri Williams. As such, the adoption agency no longer had any legal responsibility for them. Larry and Carri, like any other adoptive family, did not have to talk with or answer to the agency after finalization.
Once the adoption is finalized, and the long process is over with, most families want to be treated like other families, without intrusive oversight or invasions of their privacy. For most families, that works, because they aren’t abusive.
In the case of Larry and Carri Williams, we may never know why they did not seek help when things started going so badly. Did the agency not make the case effectively for parents to call on them for post-adoption services? Did the Williamses make a conscious decision not to interact with other adoptive families or with the Ethiopian community, who might have been resources for them, Hana, and Immanuel? Was the AAI preparation process rigorous enough? Did the Williamses’ isolation as a home-schooling family mean they did not want to reach out for help?
So many questions. My hope is that, while the adoption agency does not face legal recriminations for the placement, that all international agencies will look long and hard at their screening of prospective adoptive parents, at having a rigorous pre-adoption education program, and at working as diligently as possible to encourage parents to get post-adoption help without shame or difficulty.
In response to Joshua Williams’ plea, Gina Cole notes, in her article, the judge’s response:
Judge Susan Cook saw it differently.
The Williamses’ track record, she said, was this: one child dead, one with PTSD, and seven who thought the kind of degrading treatment the other two endured was acceptable.
A tragedy all around.
Carri Williams is now in the Washington Corrections Center for Women, in Gig Harbor, Washington, about 115 miles from her Sedro-Woolley home. She is Department of Corrections Inmate 370021. Larry Williams is in the Washington Corrections Center in Shelton, Washington, about 150 miles from Sedro-Woolley. He is DOC Inmate 370101. Both have indicated intent to file appeals. Unless they can make bail, both will remain in jail as their appeals go through the legal process. Carri’s bail is set at $1.5 million; Larry’s at $750,000.
I have heard via the Facebook page Remembrance of Hana Williams that the parental rights of Larry and Carri Williams were terminated for Immanuel. I haven’t seen it verified anywhere else, but I believe it to be accurate. I wish Immanuel good things in his future: healing, strength, safety. He struck me during the trial as a remarkably resilient young man.
I posted yesterday about Hana’s Fund, Hana’s Grave Marker. May we keep Hana and Immanuel always in our hearts.