Parents found guilty in Longview starving kids case
Parents found guilty in Longview starving kids case
By KATU.com Staff
Story Updated: Jul 31, 2012
LONGVIEW, Wash. - The parents accused of starving their five adopted children were found guilty of mistreatment charges Tuesday in a Longview courtroom.
Jeff Trebilcock and his wife Rebecca Trebilcock were both found guilty of first and third degree criminal mistreatment. The first-degree convictions are felonies. Sentencing will take place on August 23 and could face as much as almost six years in prison.
The couple were found not guilty of several lesser misdemeanor charges.
"I think food was used as a carrot, and as a punishment," Cowlitz County Superior Court Judge Michael Evans said in court when the verdict was delivered.
The Trebilcocks wept and held hands in court as the verdict was read. They did talk to reporters after court.
They will stay out of jail until their sentencing to find a place for one minor son still at their home and so Rebecca's elderly mother can retun home to Wyoming.
The case has garnered national attention. The Trebilcock's lawyers made the rare move of not having a jury trial because they thought it was the only way they could get a fair trial due to media coverage.
Judge Evans also said that the parent's view of food "became distorted somehow." Prosecutors said alarms were set up in the home to warn the parents the kids were trying to get to food. Both Jeff and Rebecca denied that was the reason for the equipment, saying it was to keep the oldest boy from sneaking out of the house.
"From what's happened, I can say I have a lot of anger in me," said Derric Whittington, who is the biological brother of two of the victims.
Extensive coverage of the case from KATU News
The boy who was in the worst shape testified he was made to drink his own urine and that he and his four adopted sisters were denied food while his mother is overweight and his father was obese.
At one point, the Trebilcock's defense said a stomach flu and other medical and psychological conditions were the reasons for the kids' malnourishment.
The boy who was made to drink his own urine is now 14 years old. He said his adopted parents forced him to perform chores in the cold with no jacket or shoes.
In testimony, he said he was often forced to eat outside from a bucket the Trebilcocks called "the trough." The boy said the Trebilcocks would make him stand on the porch in the cold and they or the couple's biological children would douse him with water.
During the trial, James Smith, a deputy prosecutor, showed a picture of the boy and his biological sister at the age they were when adopted -- both healthy and even a little plump.
Then Smith showed a picture of the boy in his hospital bed. He was extremely thin after years of living with the Trebilcocks.
Four adopted girls, ages 11, 12, 10 and eight were also found to be underweight and neglected, according to a doctor. They were placed into protective custody a week after the 13-year-old.
The Trebilcocks were well-nourished and so were three other biological children in the home, according to the sheriff’s office that began the investigation. One other biological child, who is older, moved out of the home.
During her testimony, Rebecca Trebilcock tried to paint her adopted son as a difficult child. Throughout the trial the defense tried to turn the blame on the 13-year-old for why he only weighed as much as a 6-year-old. His mother continued the defense theme, saying the boy had odd behavior and wasn't truthful.
Trebilcock said her attitudes about food weren't to blame. She also said her religious beliefs inspired her to adopt a mostly vegetarian lifestyle for her family and admitted she traveled to Mexico for weight-loss surgery.
Rebecca is overweight while Jeff has been described as obese.
She said she cooked ample food for her five adopted kids, but the 13-year-old boy often refused to eat or stole dog food to eat instead of people food.
When he was rushed to the hospital last year, he weighed as much as a six-year-old -- just 49 pounds. The boy has gained more than 60 pounds and grown seven inches since being out of the Trebilcock home where a gate with bells was put on his door so he couldn't leave his room.
A neighbor of the Trebilcocks defended the couple and said they being falsely accused by the 13-year-old who was fabricating the story.
"It’s just totally wrong," said Warren Bertold. "And social services and the police need to get their act together and find out exactly what the truth is so these people can get back to their business. . . . These people are wonderful people. They’re terrific, Christian people. They have rescued these kids. Four of these kids, they rescued from Haiti."
But a Cowlitz County prosecutor, Sue Baur, said the evidence is clear.
"I don’t know who they are or where they’re coming from," she said. "It’s pretty clear" the children were mistreated.
During the trial, Rebecca Trebilcock and her husband broke down in tears when her lawyer showed a video of the Trebilcocks and their four adopted daughters during a state supervised visit after the couple's arrest.
The video shows them as an affectionate family with the girls telling the Trebilcocks they love them, but one of the girls testified she didn't know the way the Trebilcocks treated her was wrong until she experienced another way of life in foster care.
The adult brother of the oldest boy was in court Tuesday and said he was satisfied with the verdict and may try to adopt his brother and other children in the case.