Mother takes the stand as abuse trial testimony concludes

Date: 2012-07-26

July 26, 2012 9:00 pm • By Leslie Slape / The Daily News

Attorneys wrapped up their cases Thursday in the bench trial of a Longview couple charged with criminal mistreatment of their five adopted children. Cowlitz Superior Court Judge Michael Evans will announce at 1 p.m. Tuesday whether he's reached a verdict.

An emotional highlight of Thursday's concluding testimony was a 52-minute video of Jeffery and Rebecca Trebilcock cuddling, reading, kissing and playing with their four adopted daughters during a supervised visit.

The Trebilcocks wept while watching the playback of the visit, which took place April 7, 2011, about a month after the state seized the children. Their adopted son did not want to attend. A judge ended supervised visitation in May 2011.

Rebecca Trebilcock was the final defense witness in the trial, which began July 16. The couple is accused of starving and neglecting their adopted boy and four adopted daughters. They also have four biological sons.

"Why did you adopt five children?" asked defense attorney Ted DeBray.

"We had the room in our home and in our hearts," Rebecca Trebilcock said. "When God has given a lot, he requires a lot, and I felt he had given us a lot."

As her husband did on the witness stand Wednesday, Rebecca Trebilcock insisted their adopted children had plenty to eat. They had a 6,000-square-foot garden and canned 14 canner loads of vegetables a year, she said.

She said the boy usually told her he didn't want dinner, which the family ate together.

"He'd say, 'You don't have to make me anything. I don't want to eat,' " Rebecca Trebilcock quoted him as saying, adding, "He'd say he was fat."

But when he smelled the food, "He'd change his mind pretty quick," she said.

She said she grew worried about the boy's lack of growth, which led her to take him to the doctor in 2008, but she said she did not believe he was dangerously thin.

Showing her a March 2011 photo of the boy with stick-thin arms in his hospital bed, deputy prosecutor James Smith tried to get Rebecca Trebilcock to agree that the boy was emaciated. The boy, then 13 years old, weighed only 49 pounds.

"Does he look like he's at a healthy weight?" he asked.

"No, he looks like he's been sick," she replied.

"He doesn't look malnourished?"

"I don't know. I'm not a doctor."

In his closing statement, Smith said the combined testimony of the Trebilcocks' adopted children — who testified last week — along with the medical records is enough to prove the charges.

"We can clearly break down the growth charts to before Trebilcock, during Trebilcock and after Trebilcock," he said. "At the Trebilcocks, they slide off the growth scale. They're not gaining weight. After the Trebilcocks, all the children gain weight and height. They become much healthier. Why?

"The answer is clear. The common denominator is the people caring for these children."

Defense attorney Kevin Blondin, who represents Jeffrey Trebilcock, said in his closing statement that the Trebilcocks are "a more normal family than the state wants to paint them as."

The video, family photos and letters prove that, he said.

"The kids are not fearful of their parents. They don't look like kids who were forced to have duct tape over their mouths, underfed, neglected and mistreated," he said. "There's no awkwardness."

He suggested that sometime after visitation was denied, someone planted ideas in the children's heads that influenced them to make up stories.

DeBray, who represents Rebecca Trebilcock, noted that in their first interview with authorities, the girls said their brother had plenty to eat. One of the girls said her brother had a reputation for not telling the truth, Debray said.

He said there are other possible medical reasons for the boy's condition such as rickets, reactive attachment disorder or pyschosocial dwarfism.

In his rebuttal, Smith scoffed at those arguments.

"The defense maintains there's no proof of malnourishment," he said. "(The boy) weighs 49 pounds!".

As for the video, "That proves nothing," he said. "The children don't know any better. Their whole world is their parents. Children always love their parents, even abusive parents."

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