A US court rules the Williams guilty of manslaughter

Tesfaye Ejigu

A two-year trial by a Skagit County Court in the US passed a guilty verdict in manslaughter and sentenced Larry and Carri Williams of Sedro Woolley to 38 and 36 years in jail respectively.

The tragic death in late 2011 of Hana Alemu (Hana Williams), who was adopted by the couple from Ethiopia, had stirred a public uproar among the Ethiopian Diaspora in the US. The death of Hana, 13, was quickly followed by murder and abuse charges against the Williams. A conservative Christian family with 7 biological children, the Williams adopted Hana Williams in 2008. Larry and Carri Williams had also adopted another Ethiopian boy Immanuel.

The jury heard Hana Williams died in May 12, 2011 in the backyard of the couple’s home where she was forced to stay as part of a strict child discipline, outlined in a Christian parenting book the adoptive parents adhered to. During the court proceeding Hana’s step brother Immanuel had testified he and Hana were beaten with sticks, hosed down, forced to eat frozen food, and were locked in closets as punishment. An autopsy result showed that Hana died of hypothermia that was aggravated by chronic gastritis and malnutrition. Her bone-thin body was covered in bruises, including a lump on her shaved head, and red bloody markings on her hips, elbows and face. The disparity between Hana’s happy time photos and photos taken shortly before her death also showed deterioration in her health and weight. According to prosecutors, Hana lost 30lbs between 2009 and 2011. Her adopted brother, Immanuel, who is deaf, testified she was always told to stay outside by her adoptive parents, Larry and Carri Williams, who followed a child training method of Michael and Debi Pearl to discipline children in the family, even though there was evident one-sidedness on implementation.

Immanuel says he and Hana were treated very differently from the Williams’ own seven children. Investigators said parents kept the family isolated from non-relatives, home-schooled the children and followed strict religious principles described in the Christian parenting book titled ‘To Train Up a Child.’

A foster mother testified during the trial that the couple’s other adopted son Immanuel was rail-thin and covered in scratches when she took him in.

“The verdict gave a sigh of relief, justice is done” said Dr.Shakespear Feyyisa, an Ethiopian lawyer and human rights activist in Seattle, Washington. Following the couple’s arrest Child Protective Service removed Immanuel and the remaining seven children from their home and placed them at a foster care.

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