MOUNT VERNON — The boy Larry and Carri Williams adopted from Ethiopia in 2008 told a court Thursday morning that life in their home consisted of nights sleeping in a bathtub or shower room and days spent eating wet sandwiches and frozen food, sometimes on the floor.
The Williamses’ adopted daughter received similar treatment, the boy said. Hana Williams died in May 2011 of hypothermia, hastened by malnutrition and a stomach condition, after hours spent in the rain in the family’s backyard in Sedro-Woolley.
Larry and Carri Williams are charged with homicide by abuse and first-degree manslaughter in Hana’s death, and with first-degree assault in connection with alleged abuse of their adopted son. Each has pleaded not guilty.
The boy, now about 12 years old, told prosecutors his new parents and their biological son sprayed him with cold water from a hose or in the shower whenever he wet his pants or bed. The Williamses also sprayed Hana, the boy said, but he didn’t know why.
The biological Williams children were never sprayed with a hose and never made to eat on the floor, but some of them doled out these punishments to their adopted younger siblings, the boy said.
Sometimes Hana and her brother were sent outside to eat their meals, even if it was snowing, he testified Thursday.
The boy, who is deaf, first took the stand Monday and described through a sign language interpreter being beaten by the Williamses all over his body with a belt or switch.
Once, the boy said Monday, Larry Williams used a wooden stick to hit him on his head so hard he bled. That same day, during a birthday celebration for Carri Williams, his adoptive mother told the other children not to use sign language to communicate with the boy anymore, the boy said.
Hana sometimes slept in a closet or in the family’s barn and used a Honey Bucket (portable toilet) in the yard instead of the bathroom in the house, the boy said.
While on the stand, the boy has not once looked at Larry and Carri Williams, who before this week he had not seen for about two years while he has been in foster care and the case had been pending.
A therapist who has worked with the boy since December testified Wednesday he has post-traumatic stress disorder because of his experiences in the Williams home. Defense attorneys questioned that conclusion, saying losing his biological parents in Ethiopia and living in an orphanage could also have been traumatic.
Two acquaintances of Carri Williams testified Thursday afternoon.
One, a friend from Lynnwood, discussed a time “several years ago” when the Williams family visited her home and Hana was not allowed to play with the other children. She said Carri Williams told her Hana would not be getting any holiday gifts and could not participate in holiday activities.
The Lynnwood friend said she never saw the Williamses physically discipline their children, but did see them hug the children and believed Larry Williams was a “loving father.”
A woman who attended a knitting group in Burlington with Carri Williams talked about two “long conversations” the two women had about Carri’s children, one a few weeks before Hana’s death. The woman said Carri told her Hana lied, stole, refused to eat and would not obey her parents.
“My house, my children, my rules,” the woman remembered Carri Williams saying.
Carri Williams talked about wanting to kick Hana out of the house when she turned 18, in part because her adopted son followed Hana’s lead in misbehaving, the woman said.
“(After Hana moved out,) she’d train him to obey,” the woman testified. “She felt she could do that without Hana.”
The woman said she asked how Hana was supposed to get along in the world after being “kicked out,” and Carri Williams’ reply was, “Won’t be my problem.”
Carri said she and Larry Williams prayed about Hana every night, the woman also testified.
The final witness of the day was retired top military lawyer John Hutson, who has testified before Congress multiple times about torture and counseled U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on torture issues before his confirmation hearings. His testimony in this case has been limited to his background and expertise.
Proving the Williamses tortured Hana is a crucial part of the prosecutors’ case. To be convicted of homicide by abuse, the person accused must have “engaged in a pattern or practice of assault or torture” of the person who died.
Larry Williams’ lawyers objected to Hutson’s appearance as a witness, in part because his expertise is in an international, military context. Judge Susan Cook ruled that he could still testify, but attorneys need to confer about specific limitations on his testimony. Hutson is set to return to the stand today.