Update on Hana Williams: Larry and Carri Williams Have Filed an Appeal to Their Murder Convictions

Hana Alemu (Williams)

Hana Alemu (Williams) Photo from Facebook page: Remembrance of Hanna Williams

In late October 2013, Larry and Carri Williams, the adoptive parents of Ethiopian adoptee Hana Williams/Hana Alemu, were convicted and sentenced to jail for Hana’s murder and associated torture. You can read about their sentencing here.

Larry and Carri have filed appeals of the conviction, and the Seattle Appeals Court has scheduled oral arguments for the appeals on Monday, November 16, at 9:30am. I will be there, and I hope many other folks in the Seattle area will be there also. A good showing by the public on Hana’s behalf could be a powerful statement to the judges. Many thanks to all who have kept Hana in their hearts.

I feel certain that many folks in Washington State, in the US, in Ethiopia, and around the globe will be watching this case closely.

We haven’t forgotten you, Hana.

Remembering Mothers, Remembering Hana

I was blessed to have a mother who loved me unconditionally, who believed in me fully, and who was steadfast in her love for and devotion to my children as well.

Mom with her youngest grandchild, about 22 years ago.

Mom with her youngest grandchild, about 22 years ago.

Mom died over 10 years ago, and I miss her every day. She would have been crazy about her great-granddaughter, who’s now 7 years old. While I sometimes can’t believe I’m a grandmother, I know how fortunate I am.

I’m incredibly fortunate to be the mom of 4 amazing young people, whom I love beyond words.  I am their mom through adoption, and I hold their first mothers tightly in my heart. I’m especially proud on Mother’s Day of my daughter Aselefech, who is a wonderful mother herself.


I’m thinking today also of Hana Alemu, born in 1997 in Ethiopia. She was brought to Washington state in the US for adoption in 2008, and she died, three years ago today, on May 12, 2011.

Hana Alemu (Williams)

Hana Alemu (Williams)

An amazing story of hope and beauty has emerged from the tragedy of Hana’s passing.

David Guterson, the acclaimed novelist who lives on Bainbridge Island in Washington state, attended nearly every day of the trial last summer of Hana Alemu’s adoptive parents, Larry and Carri Williams. The Williamses are now each serving lengthy prison sentences for Hana’s tragic death.

David is writing a book about Hana, and traveled to Ethiopia in March for research. He met Hana’s best friend and cousin there, a young woman named Haimanot. Haimanot was struggling with a brain tumor. Wiithout surgery, she would lose her vision. David arranged for Haimanot to come to the US in April.


Haimanot had surgery to remove a pituitary tumor at Swedish Medical Center. It went well. She had some headaches and low energy afterward, but is now feeling great.

Swedish did everything pro bono and will continue to provide treatment for Haimanot as needed. Rep. Derek Kilmer (6th-WA) opened the door for the visa. The Ethiopian community has provided room and board, and there has been lots of support from the Seattle Ethiopian Community Center.

My mom would have loved this story.

I’d like to also remind folks about another positive recent development: the excellent resource Ethiopian Adoption Connection, a website to connect Ethiopian original families with their children adopted around the globe. After only a short time, they’ve already been able to connect adoptees with their Ethiopian families. There are also many resources listed on the site, which is in Amharic and English. Keeping families connected is a gift beyond words.

May we all have hope that good can come from tragedy.

May we hold in our hearts those who have died, and honor their memory.

May we treasure those who love us and care for us. May we not miss an opportunity to help others, with kindness and compassion.



Hana’s Fund, Hana’s Grave Marker

Update: Here is the final paragraph of Kathryn Joyce’s Slate.com article (November 11, 2013) about Hana and other Ethiopian adoptees:

“After the Williamses’ sentencing, the Ethiopian community center had hoped to install a headstone for Hana where only a temporary marker had been. But in October, community members, who had spent months following the trial and years grappling with what had gone wrong, learned that they couldn’t. Two years after Hana’s death, the Williamses’ extended family suddenly ordered a headstone themselves. The birthdate on the stone, the local funeral home told me, will read 1994—three years earlier than the year listed on Hana’s death certificate. As the Williamses head into appeal, the engraving is an attempt to posthumously change Hana’s age from 13 to 16, just as the Williamses’ defense attorneys had argued in seeking to invalidate the trial’s most serious charge, to cast Hana not as a youthful victim but a troubled older teen. If only on a symbolic level, it gives the parents who abused, shunned, and ultimately killed Hana the last word on her life.”

The sorrow continues.

Among those most devastated by the tragedy of Hana Alemu’s death were members of the Ethiopian community in Washington state. (For posts about Hana, her life and death, the trial of her adoptive parents Larry and Carri Williams, please feel free to search my blog. The most recent post is here.) Members of the Ethiopian Community Center in Seattle established a fund in Hana’s honor, drove in a van to attend the trial as often as possible, went to her grave to sing and pray, and have reached out to adoptive families to ensure that what happened to Hana would never happen again to an Ethiopian adoptee.

Here’s information from the ECS website about Hana’s Fund:

The Ethiopian Community Mutual Association (ECMA) of Greater Puget Sound now announces the advent of its Hana Fund.  The purpose of the fund is prevent cases of abuse and assault in adoptive families via a program of outreach and crisis intervention, and via cultural awareness, education and counseling.

Costs associated with ECMA’s Hana Program will include:

  • legal research
  • compiling a data base of adoptive children in its service area
  • establishing and maintaining a hotline
  • fees and expenses for social workers and counselors
  • establishing and maintaining cultural programming
  • website and social media presence
  • production of educational materials
  • outreach

If you would like to contribute to the Hana Fund, write a check to “ECMA Hana Fund” and send it to ECMA, 8323 Rainier Avenue South, Seattle, WA  98118, or visit ecseattle.org, click on DONATE NOW, and make your donation with a credit card via PayPal.

Like many others, the members of the Ethiopian Community Center have been concerned by the lack of a marker or stone on Hana’s grave site in Sedro-Woolley cemetery. From what I understand, the grave is owned by either Larry or Carri’s parents, who have not (for whatever reasons), in the more than two years since Hana died (May 12, 2011) put up a marker beyond one that is flat on the ground, with a photocopy of Hana’s name and dates of birth and death.

Marker at Hana's grave

Marker at Hana’s grave

There are still unresolved legal issues around whether there can be a marker placed on the grave site by people who do not own the grave site. My understanding is that folks with the Ethiopian Community Center are working on this.

Another possibility is that there will be a memorial of some sort, perhaps at the ECS in Seattle, or elsewhere.

The Ethiopian Community has worked hard and thoughtfully on the grave site marker, and are hopeful that it will be possible to place one in the Sedro-Woolley cemetery. Here’s the design they have created:


I think it’s lovely. The Amharic written on it means “We love you.”

There have been questions about including the last name Williams on the grave marker, and some folks would like the name to be eliminated, or set in quotes or parentheses. The consensus was, though, that Hana Williams was her legal name, and that people searching for her would likely use that name. We want people to be able to find and remember her easily.

Information is available on the Facebook page, In Remembrance of Hanna.