Trebilcocks' daughter tells of escape attempt
July 17, 2012 10:48 pm • By Tony Lystra / The Daily News
Forty-eight hours before authorities seized their adopted children and placed them in foster homes, Jeffrey and Rebecca Trebilcock loaded the kids in a van and sent them off to Wyoming, one of their adopted daughters testified Tuesday.
Cowlitz County Deputy Prosecutor James Smith has accused the Longview couple of spiriting four of the five adopted children away in March 2011 after allegations surfaced that the parents had been starving and abusing the kids. The intent, Smith told the court Monday, was "escape," and authorities ordered that the children be immediately returned to Cowlitz County.
On Tuesday, the second day of the Trebilcock's abuse and neglect trial, their 12-year-old adopted daughter, who is now living in a foster home, said the Trebilcocks asked one of their four biological sons, Dylan Trebilcock, to drive four adopted daughters out of the state.
"They just gave him some money," the girl said. "They said, 'Hurry.' "
The Daily News is not naming the Trebilcocks' five adopted children to protect their identities.
The girl told the court that she and her three adopted sisters rode in the van all night and ate cereal. "We slept in the car," she said. They were at a Wyoming relative's house for less than a day, she said, when Dylan Trebilcock got a phone call instructing him to return to Washington with the girls.
The 12-year-old girl testified that she and her sisters were handed over to authorities the day they arrived back in Longview. The girls have been living in foster homes since.
Children's Administration Supervisor Stephanie Frost testified Tuesday that Jeffrey Trebilcock surrendered the girls to Children's Administration officials, which had a court order for their seizure, in the parking lot of the Hall of Justice on March 10, 2011.
Not with them on the trip was the 12-year-old girl's biological brother, who had been admitted to Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland earlier in March. The boy, who was adopted with his sister by the Trebilcocks in 2004, nearly died from malnourishment before authorities intervened, medical experts testified this week. He, too, is now in foster care.
Prosecutors say the Trebilcocks, who are accused of multiple counts of criminal mistreatment, failed to feed the children and subjected some of them to a regime of humiliation and abuse that included putting an alarm in the kitchen to keep them from stealing food, duct-taping their mouths and making them stand in the cold on their home's porch for extended periods.
The Trebilcocks' four biological children, some of whom are now grown, were well-fed, authorities said.
The couple have denied starving or abusing the adopted children. Their defense attorneys, Kevin Blondin and Ted DeBray, said this week that other health problems may have caused the kids to be underweight. Blondin and DeBray have sought during cross-examination to discredit the children by suggesting they were known as liars in the home. The defense attorneys also have encouraged the children to discuss on the stand times when they were well-fed or went on family vacations.
Some of the adopted children testified Monday and Tuesday that the Trebilcocks insisted on watching them while they went to the bathroom. The children also said the Trebilcocks often refused to feed them unless they finished their chores and homework. Many of the children resorted to eating dog and goat food, they said.
"I was hungry... because I didn't get enough food," testified the 12-year-old girl, who, according to authorities, was underweight and gained 18 pounds in two months after being taken away from the Trebilcocks.
"I think it was the worst place I've ever been," she said of life with the Trebilcocks. "It was scary."
Her brother gave similar testimony Monday.
The Trebilcocks, both 45, had been stone-faced during the testimony of two of their adopted children. But Jeffrey Trebilcock wiped tears from his eyes and his wife cracked a hint of smile as a third child, one of their three girls adopted from Haiti, sat in the witness stand Tuesday.
The girl, also 12, was by far the most reticent of the children who have testified so far. Between long silences, she worked a silver memento of some sort in her hands as she described eating toothpaste and dog food because she was so hungry.
Authorities said the girl also was strikingly underweight, but gained 12 pounds in about two months after being placed in foster care.