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Carri Williams: Husband was head of house


Carri Williams: Husband was head of house

Says Larry could have halted punishments

Posted: Friday, August 30, 2013 7:29 am | Updated: 10:26 am, Fri Aug 30, 2013.

By Gina Cole

MOUNT VERNON — Carri Williams testified Thursday that if her husband had told her, “You are not to treat Hana this way,” she would have stopped.

Hana Williams collapsed in the family’s Sedro-Woolley-area backyard in May 2011 and died of hypothermia hastened by malnutrition and a stomach condition. Her parents, Larry and Carri Williams, are charged with homicide by abuse and first-degree manslaughter in her death.

They also are charged with first-degree assault of their younger son, adopted from Ethiopia at the same time as Hana.

Larry Williams testified earlier this week that many of their discipline tactics, including locking Hana in a closet and making her shower outside with a hose, were his wife’s ideas.

Carri confirmed that in her testimony, but said her husband agreed to the methods, participated in them and contributed ideas of his own.

The adopted children, unlike their seven siblings, were fed frozen food and wet sandwiches, according to testimony. Besides the closet, Hana was sent to sleep in a locked shower room and, before that, a barn behind the house.

Carri Williams said she believes in biblical gender roles that men are the head of their households, and women are their helpers. Her husband never demanded the punishments end, she said.

Spanking was a common disciplinary tool in the Williams home, but Larry Williams testified he stopped spanking the two adopted children a few months before Hana died. He said he did not remember whether he told his wife to do the same, and that their other punishments continued after that.

When the Williamses adopted the two Ethiopian children, they filled out a form in which one question asked them to describe their parenting style and philosophy. Their answer to that question did not mention corporal punishment.

Carri Williams said she had mentioned spanking the children “from time to time” somewhere else in the adoption documents.

When Hana arrived in the United States, she looked so different than she did in a video sent by the adoption agency that it raised questions about her actual age, Carri Williams said.

Hana’s age is crucial to the case because the charge of homicide by abuse applies only if she was younger than 16 when she died.

Various experts who examined her body have not been able to definitively place her age, instead giving ranges that span both sides of 16. A radiologist testified for the defense on Thursday that the girl was likely between 15 and 17 when she died, based on his examination of X-rays of her hands, wrists and hips.

The orphanage and adoption agency had said Hana was born in 1997, so the Williamses went with that. But they had their doubts, Carri Williams said.

“The adoption agency said it was a year that they made up,” she said.

Larry and Carri Williams have both said they thought Hana was older than they were told she was. In October 2010, Larry Williams filled out a form to have her birth year changed to 1994 — making her 16, not 13 — but it had not been approved by the time she died.

A woman in a knitting group Carri Williams sometimes attended testified Carri had said she would kick out the “rebellious” Hana when she turned 18.

Deputy prosecutor Rosemary Kaholokula brought up that comment in court Thursday.

“By claiming she was 16, you were that much closer to getting rid of her, right?” Kaholokula said.

“No,” Carri Williams said, frowning. “I did not want to get rid of my daughter.”

— Reporter Gina Cole: 360-416-2148, gcole@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Gina_SVH, facebook.com/byGinaCole

2013 Aug 30