Couple accused of starving 5 children released from jail

Date: 2011-05-20

by Justin Burton and Michael Rollins

LONGVIEW, Wash. -- A Longview-area couple posted bail and was released from the Cowlitz County Jail Friday afternoon after they were accused of starving and abusing their biological son and four adopted girls, police said.

The Cowlitz Co. Sheriff's Office had arrested Jeffrey and Rebecca Trebilcock after a two-month long investigation into abuse of the children at their rural home.

The children told detectives the parents placed an alarm in the kitchen of the home, on Reid Lane, designed to go off when they tried to get food. Faced with being hit by a wooden board if they stole food, they resorted to eating dog food, goat food and dandelion leaves.

A 13-year-old boy had been undergoing treatment at Doernbecher's Children's Hospital for several broken ribs, malnutrition, and hypothermia, among other injuries and ailments.

Despite being a teenager, the boy was only 4'4" and weighed 49 lbs when placed under state protection. He has grown an inch and gained 25 lbs since then.

He told police that his beatings were so bad, he once felt blood running down his leg. The children were also placed outside and doused with water, ordered to stand on the porch.

But some neighbors said the arrest was all a mistake, with one telling KGW the boy was underweight due to a medical disorder and was making up the reports.

The four adopted daughters were also underweight and neglected, according to a pediatrician. The girls, remaining on the same vegetarian diet since being removed from the home, have gained 18, 12, 10 and 18 pounds respectively. All five children have been placed in protective custody.

The investigation revealed that a doctor saw the children in 2008 and warned the parents that the boy's condition was life-threatening.

A neighbor told KGW Thursday evening, and again Friday morning, that the accusations against the couple were lies.

The girls were adopted from Haiti and are far better off now than having remained in that country, according to Warren Bartold. The 13-year-old boy was thin because he was born with fetal alcohol syndrome. He believes the teen fabricated the abuse allegations.

He said the Trebilcocks were "wonderful parents" and said their arrest was a miscarriage of justice.

A neighbor interviewed by the Longview Daily News said she had never spoken with the couple in the seven years they shared a fence. She said that a biological son, 17, told her he was forced to sleep in the barn as punishment for playing video games against family beliefs.

Fearing for his well-being, she began to place food and blankets near the fence. She said children in the home quickly learned where the items could be found.

The family has three other biological children in the home who police believe were not neglected. The parents are also well-nourished, police said.

The Trebilcocks had been held at the Cowlitz Co. Jail on criminal mistreatment and felony assault charges. They posted bail and were released Friday afternoon.

Jeffrey Trebilcock is a part-time warehouse driver for the Longview School District. He works 5.5 hours a day for nine months of the year, district officials said.

A sheriff's office spokesman said the children were home-schooled, and Rebecca Trebilcock may have stayed at the home full-time to educate them.


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