MOUNT VERNON — The hope of verifying Hana Williams’ age at the time of her death is now pinned on an attempt to track down an Ethiopian man believed to be her uncle.
An examination of Hana’s bones and teeth have not conclusively determined whether she was younger than 16 when she died, Skagit County Prosecutor Rich Weyrich told the Skagit Valley Herald after a hearing Thursday.
Hana’s adoptive parents, Larry and Carri Williams, are charged with homicide by abuse and first-degree manslaughter for her death two years ago. The homicide by abuse charge only applies to children younger than 16.
Originally from Ethiopia, Hana was believed to have been 13 at the time of her death. Her exact age is uncertain because birth documentation has been unavailable.
Carri Williams called 911 after finding Hana laying in the mud in the backyard of their Sedro-Woolley area home on a rainy night in May 2011.
Her death was caused by hypothermia brought on by malnutrition, according to the autopsy report. Investigative reports detail allegations that the Williamses starved Hana, beat her and forced her to live outside.
After her body was exhumed in January, experts examined various bones and teeth and gave approximate age ranges for each body part, Weyrich said. But the estimates vary and did not determine that she was definitely younger or older than 16, he said.
Now prosecutors hope that an apparent biological uncle to Hana can help prove her birth date.
Prosecutors filed a supplement to their witness list on Monday, stating that an Ethiopian man who claimed to be Hana’s uncle could testify that she was younger than 16 at the time of her death.
Weyrich said during Thursday’s hearing that the man, Kassaye Woldetsidik, was present for her birth. The man also was willing to track down Hana’s birth certificate in the town of her birth, Weyrich said.
Larry Williams’ defense attorney, Rachel Forde, aired concerns about the man, saying that she, too, wanted access to the uncle.
Prosecutors, however, have had difficulties getting in touch with him after making initial contacts. Weyrich said the man may have to travel to the United States or someone may have to find him in Ethiopia.
The next hearing is set for June 7, when Forde plans to make a motion to dismiss charges.
Larry and Carri Williams are also charged with first-degree child assault for the alleged abuse of their adoptive Ethiopian son.