Couple face charges of starving adopted children so badly that 13-year-old boy weighed 49lb and was forced to steal dog food

Date: 2011-05-24

A couple in rural Washington face charges of criminal mistreatment and assault after allegedly starving their five adopted children to near-fatal levels.

Jeffrey and Rebecca Trebilcock, both 44, were arrested after a two-month investigation found their adopted children neglected and malnourished, including a 13-year-old boy who was 4ft 4in and weighed just 49lb.

A doctor examining the boy in 2008 said he had weight and height levels of a six-year-old, and that he suffered severe malnutrition, hypothermia, a slow heart rate, wasting muscles - and four broken ribs in various stages of repair.

He is being treated at Doernbecher's Children's Hospital, and has been diagnosed with psychosocial dwarfism - a severe growth impairment as a response to severe environment stress.

A doctor estimates the boy will be '10 inches shorter than he would have been'.

Meanwhile the Trebilcock's themselves, especially Jeffrey, were described as overweight in court documents, and their four biological children also showed signs of being fed properly.

Ironically, the father's job included delivering meals to schoolchildren in the area, as part of his job as a warehouse driver at the Longview School District.

The adopted children told investigators that the couple wired their kitchen so that an alarm sounded if someone tried to 'steal' food.

Punishments for doing so allegedly ranged from being doused with water and made to stand outside, to being beaten with a wooden board.

Chief Deputy Charlie Rosenzweig, of the Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office, said the couple's adopted son recounted a story about one beating that ended with him feeling blood running down the back of his leg.

To avoid punishment, the children resorted to stealing dog food and goat food from the family pets, and eating the leaves of plants.

Now that they were in protective custody, the boy had gained 25lb and had also grown taller. The rest of the adopted children, all girls between the ages of 10 and 13 (one of the girls' age has not been released), had also gained weight.

The Trebilcocks, of Reid Lane in Longview, appeared in Cowlitz County Superior Court on Friday. They managed to post the $50,000 bail, and would be arrained on May 31. The judge ordered that they stay away from their adopted children in that time.

Lead prosecutor Susan Baur said: 'Food is such an intimate and integral part of us. To actually use it as a tool or a mechanism of power is unusual.'

The Trebilcock children, both biological and adopted, were home educated and never enrolled in Longview schools.

Washington State Child Protective Services found out about the children's condition and alerted detectives.

Three years ago, when the boy was about 10, the Trebilcocks took him to see Dr Blaine Tolby.

According to court records, Dr Tolby said the boy was the height of a six-year-old and the weight of a five-year-old.

Neighbours of the Trebilcocks defended the couple today.
Warren Bartold said boy was underweight due to a medical disorder and was making up the reports.

He said: ''These people are wonderful people. They’re terrific, Christian people. They have rescued these kids.'

But another 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.


Officials with Washington State Child Protective Services said the Trebilcocks were previously foster parents, and two of the five adopted children were their foster children.

They adopted those two children, who were from the Longview area, in 2004.

The state then told the Trebilcocks that they had too many children in their home.

But the Trebilcocks went outside of state government to an unknown agency and adopted three more children from Haiti.


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