MOUNT VERNON — In an interview with a sheriff’s detective hours after her adopted daughter collapsed in the family’s backyard and succumbed to hypothermia and malnutrition, Carri Williams said she thought the girl was staying outside just to be rebellious.
“I thought she was just pretending that she couldn’t walk, because she’s done that before,” Carri Williams told Skagit County Sheriff’s Detective Ben Hagglund. “I just kind of ignored it.”
Jurors listened Tuesday morning to a recording of Hagglund’s 35-minute interview with Carri Williams, who along with her husband Larry Williams is charged with homicide by abuse and first-degree manslaughter in Hana Williams’ May 2011 death.
They also are charged with first-degree assault of a child in the alleged abuse of their adopted son. They have each pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Larry Williams was still at work when Hana collapsed, so Hagglund interviewed only Carri Williams. She was cooperative and answered all the detective’s questions, he testified Tuesday morning.
In the interview, Carri Williams told Hagglund Hana’s behavior had “escalated” in the past six months or so, and she’d been lying, stealing and harming herself.
Hana was not being treated for any condition and had no diagnosed behavioral problems — “just rebellion,” Carri Williams said, acknowledging the family had never had the girl evaluated.
She later told another detective she was dealing with Hana’s issues by talking, reading and playing music to her, along with “other forms of correction.”
“At dinnertime, she didn’t want to eat her food,” Carri Williams told Hagglund of the night Hana died.
When Hana removed her clothing — a sign of hypothermia — Carri Williams said she thought the girl was just doing it to rebel because she had recently been dropping her pants in front of her brothers.
The girl’s nakedness was enough to get Carri Williams to tell her oldest sons, who she’d enlisted to help bring Hana inside, to “forget it,” she told Hagglund.
Later, when Hana was lying facedown on the patio and grass, Carri Williams still thought the girl was pretending, she said. But then another daughter pointed out Hana wasn’t moving.
“And the way she was laying, it didn’t look like it was pretend,” Carri Williams told Hagglund, describing later not being sure if she felt a pulse. “I said, ‘She killed herself. I think she’s dead.’”
Hagglund examined Hana’s body shortly after her death. His report does not note the thin appearance of her 5-foot, 80-pound frame.
Sheriff’s Office investigates
Another Skagit County Sheriff’s detective, Theresa Luvera, testified about interviewing members of the Williams family and helping search their home.
Luvera visited the Williams home the day after Hana died. She told Larry Williams about the marks discovered on Hana’s legs at the hospital and the man showed her the piece of plastic plumbing pipe the Williamses used to hit their children, she testified.
Larry and Carri Williams said Hana was the healthiest person in the family and never complained about being sick, Luvera testified.
A then-11-year-old Williams daughter told Luvera her adopted siblings might get hit with a switch 40 times a day, according to a transcript of the interview. Luvera ended that interview when the girl started crying.
“She was upset,” the detective said. “We don’t go to interview kids to make them upset.”
The Williams children were polite and appeared healthy, and their parents seemed proud of them, Luvera said.
A foster mom observes
First on the stand Tuesday morning was Trudy Wise, a foster mother with whom three biological Williams children lived for about a month after being removed from their parents’ home in July 2011. Wise attended church with the Williamses for a few months before Hana died.
Wise told deputy prosecuting attorney Rosemary Kaholokula she noticed a “pecking order” among the children, in which the older ones were “domineering” over the younger ones, including Wise’s own two children.
The Williams children seemed happy and never argued, she said.
One hot day, Wise took the children swimming and saw a teenage Williams son take away a swimsuit Wise’s daughter had loaned the younger Williams girl, telling her, “You’re not allowed to go swimming” because he deemed the one-piece swimsuit too revealing. The girl submitted and sat out, Wise said.
Wise testified that the same boy, about 14 at the time, said of his deceased adopted sister: “Hana was fat so we had to take the food away, but she was just in so much rebellion that she didn’t listen.”