Death of adopted girl outside in cold yard prompts CPS probe

Date: 2011-08-01

Police are investigating the circumstances that led to the death from hypothermia and exposure of a 13-year-old Sedro-Woolley girl in her adoptive family's yard in May.

By Christine Clarridge

Authorities in Skagit County are investigating the circumstances that led to the death from hypothermia and exposure of a 13-year-old Sedro-Woolley girl in her adoptive family's yard in May.

The county Sheriff's Office has forwarded its report to the county Prosecuting Attorney's Office, but no charges have been filed.

"This case certainly has some unusual aspects to it, and that is why we have referred the matter to our prosecutor for a charging opinion," said Sheriff Will Reichardt. "Unfortunately, at this time it wouldn't be fair to anyone to comment on the details or speculate about if the facts in this case add up to a criminal act."

According to a spokeswoman with Child Protective Services (CPS), the state agency was contacted by law-enforcement officers and the county coroner, who had learned that the girl had suffered significant weight loss before her death.

"They were concerned because she was outside at night when she died," said CPS spokeswoman Sherry Hill.

The eight remaining children of the girl's parents have been removed from their home and placed in foster care, according to Hill.

Hill said she was unable to give specifics about the CPS investigation, but she said a Skagit County judge at a July 22 hearing had "enough concern" to order the children be placed outside the home.

The children range in age from 7 to 17, Hill said.

The 13-year-old, who was identified in an online funeral notice as Hana Grace-Rose Williams, had been adopted along with her 10-year-old brother from Ethiopia through an international adoption agency in 2008, Hill said.

Before the girl's death on May 12, CPS had not had contact with the family, Hill said.

"That's when we heard about it," said Hill. "We attempted to speak with the parents and the [surviving] children twice in May, but the parents would not allow the children to be interviewed without the parents present."

Messages left at the home of the girl's parents were not returned on Monday.

According to a relative, who asked not to be named, police are investigating whether the children were abused and whether the girl may have been put outside as a punishment.

According to the National Weather Service, a low temperature of 42 degrees was reported in Sedro-Woolley on May 12.

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or cclarridge@seattletimes.com.

Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.

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