exposing the dark side of adoption
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Longview parents post bail after appearing in court on criminal mistreatment charges


By Molly Young

A Longview, Wash., couple face assault and criminal mistreatment charges after authorities found their five adopted children neglected and malnourished, including a 13-year-old boy who weighed just 49 pounds.

Children told investigators the couple wired their kitchen with an alarm system and punished them for stealing food, said Chief Deputy Charlie Rosenzweig of the Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office.

Jeffrey and Rebecca Trebilcock, both 44, made their first appearance Friday in Cowlitz County Superior Court, said Susan Baur, the county's lead prosecutor. She expects to file formal charges within days and try them together.

In her 24 years in the county attorney's office, Baur said she had never seen such a case.

"Food is such an intimate and integral part of us," Baur said. "To actually use it as a tool or a mechanism of power is unusual."

Jeffrey Trebilcock delivered hundreds of meals to children as part of his job as a warehouse driver at the Longview School District, said Sandy Catt, a district spokeswoman.

"We have a central kitchen for our elementaries," Catt said. "He would take lunches to schools."

Jeffrey Trebilcock has worked for the district since 1998 but hasn't come in since his arrest. District officials will evaluate his employment during a mandatory fact-finding session when he returns, Catt said.

Catt said all of the children were homeschooled and never enrolled in Longview schools.

Rosenzweig said the Trebilcocks' adopted children became so hungry that they ate dog and goat food and dandelion leaves. They have been placed in protective custody.

The couple's three biological children who lived with them showed no signs of neglect and were left in their home. A fourth biological child had moved out.

Rosenzweig said he could not comment on any motive for the alleged starvation.

Detectives began investigating the couple in March after doctors treated their 13-year-old adopted son for severe malnutrition, hypothermia, a slow heart rate and a wasting syndrome. They also found he had several broken ribs.

Washington State Child Protective Services workers told detectives about his condition. Officials later learned that a doctor in 2008 called his medical state life-threatening if his parents postponed further care.

In addition to the boy, the couple's four adopted daughters were underweight and neglected, Rosenzweig said. Three of the girls range in age from 10 to 12. The age of the fourth was not released.

All five are recuperating in protective custody. The boy has gained 25 pounds and grown one inch, while his sisters have gained between 10 and 18 pounds

The Trebilcocks posted $50,000 bail Friday. They will be arraigned May 31.

A judge ordered them to stay away from their adopted children.

2011 May 20