Hana Williams Abuse and Murder Trial Ongoing

Hana Williams died two years ago, in May 2011, of hypothermia after her mother banished her from the house as punishment for being “rebellious.” Hana was already overly-thin from starvation—her parents withheld food as punishment—and she had often been forced to sleep in the barn, use an outdoor port-a-potty, and shower outside. Hana Williams had been adopted from Ethiopia in 2008 by a conservative Christian homeschooling couple who followed the child training methods of Michael and Debi Pearl. Her trial is currently taking place, including testimony from some of the children’s seven biological children and Hanna’s adopted Ethiopian brother.

I’m going to offer some excerpts from recent articles covering the trial. If you want to see video news reports, click through, as most of these articles include news footage. For what I’ve previously had to say about Hana Williams’ death, read this post from two years ago, written right after the news of Hana’s death surfaced.

Jurors See Before and After Photos of Starved Girl, August 1, 2013

For the first time, jurors saw what Hana Williams looked like as a healthy girl–and her shocking deterioration before her death.

Video taken in 2007 before she left Ethiopia shows Hana smiling as she looks at the camera.  A photo taken closer to her death in 2011 shows her thin teen and shaved head.

Hana’s adopted brother, Immanuel, who is deaf, testified she was always told to stay outside by her adoptive parents, Larry and Carri Williams.

“They didn’t let her into the house to warm up,” said 12-year-old Immanuel, through an interpreter.

Immanuel says he and Hana were treated very differently from the Williams’ own seven children.

Hana’s Adopted Brother Testifies about Abuse, August 1, 2013

During the third day of witness testimony yesterday in the trial of Larry and Carri Williams, a mental health therapist from Seattle Children’s Hospital testified that Hana’s 12-year-old brother suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder because of the abuse he endured under the hands of his adoptive parents.

The mental health expert, Dr. Julia Petersen, said that the boy, who was also adopted from Ethiopia, started meeting with her last winter, when he had been in foster care for more than a year, local media reported. The couple have pleaded not guilty.

Per the Skagit Valley Herald: “Petersen said the boy fit the diagnostic criteria for PTSD based in part on his nightmares about being physically harmed and the fact he was constantly afraid of making mistakes or expressing himself lest he be “punished.” Discipline the boy experienced in the Williams home, plus seeing Hana in pain and dying, is traumatic enough to lead to PTSD, she said.”

Dr Petersen pointed out that the brother’s upbringing in Ethiopia or his stay at foster care in the U.S. do not appear to be the reason for the post-traumatic stress disorder. “Losing his parents caused the boy sadness and grief, but not the same kind of anxiety brought on by what he said happened in the Williams home,” Petersen said.

Latest from the Williams Trial, August 4, 2013

An expert on torture testified Friday in the homicide-by-abuse trial of Larry and Carri Williams who are accused of abusing their two adopted children from Ethiopia, Hana and Immanuel, and causing the death of Hana.

13-year-old Hana Alemu (Hana Williams) was found dead on May 12, 2011 in the family’s backyard in Sedro-Woolley, Washington. She died of hypothermia, which doctors say was hastened by malnutrition and a stomach condition.

“In my judgment, it’s not a close case,” said John Hutson, taking the witness stand on day-six of the trial. The law school professor and dean, who had previously testified before Congress about military prisoner abuse, added: “They both were unquestionably tortured.”

Kids Testify in Abuse and Murder Trial, August 5, 2013

Cara, one of Larry and Carri’s seven children, says Immanuel, a brother, and Hana ate outside and slept in a closet when they broke the rules in the gated, conservative Christian home.

The parents claim they cared for the adopted pair—like shaving Hana’s hair when she had lice. But Cara says Hana’s braids were shaved as punishment.

“Because she was clipping grass around the house and she was clipping it down to an inch instead of leaving a couple of inches,” said Cara.

The Williams could face life in prison and are charged with assaulting Immanuel and abusing Hana to death.

A witness told investigators the couple followed a controversial book called “Train Up A Child”. The author tells parents to use a switch, cold baths, withhold food and force children outside in cold weather as punishment. Cara says her father, a Boeing worker, and her stay-at-home mother hit all of the kids.

“In your family you call the swats and spanking “training” correct?” asked Larry’s attorney, Cassie Trueblood.

“Yes,” said Cara.

But Cara says the adopted children were the only ones who had to shower outside with a garden hose.

“Did you ever take a shower out there?” asked prosecutor Rich Weyrich.

“No,” said Cara.

Prosecutors want jurors to hear from the couple’s oldest sons. But a judge ruled the pair will not testify without immunity—because they are also accused with abusing their adopted siblings. Prosecutors say they are willing to give immunity from any future charges which should clear the way for the boys to testify this week.

It will be interesting to see where things go from here.

If We Can’t Come to Grips with the Past, How Are We to Grapple with the Present?
Why Does Lily Work Two Jobs while Carl is Unemployed?
The unBiblical Tea Party Christian
HSLDA on those “Radically Atheistic” Public Schools
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • MyOwnPerson

    I think we former homeschoolers are the only people who care enough about other homeschoolers to work to change the conditions under which these kinds of things can happen.

    • The_L1985

      I wasn’t homeschooled, but that doesn’t mean I’m not furious when these things happen. If teachers have to be held accountable to the law, why don’t homeschool parents?

    • Gillianren

      Why do you think that?

    • Sophie

      I’m sorry but your comment really seems to imply that anyone who wasn’t homeschooled is devoid of compassion. Well I have news for you, I wasn’t raised in foster care but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to help change the system and help the children in it. Nor was I a victim of female circumcision but that doesn’t mean I don’t find the practice to be barbaric and want it eradicated. People can and do care about things that are not in their realm of experience. I would have thought that reading the comments on this blog would have shown you that.

      The abuse that Libby writes about is horrible. Children have died because of this idealogy, of course people outside of the homeschool bubble care and of course we want it to change. We may be late to the party compared to those of you raised in that culture, but we want to help those children too. To suggest otherwise is quite frankly an awful thing to say.

    • MyOwnPerson

      No, sorry everyone. That’s not what I meant at all. I was thinking more of how homeschool PARENTS don’t give a sniff about anyone’s children but their own. Homeschool parents do not fight for homeschooled children, so I felt like we former homeschoolers might be the advocates that these kids need. Not that that excluded anyone else.

  • Ahab

    The evidence seems damning. I hope these abusive parents are held accountable for their crimes and sentenced to long prison terms.

    • Niemand

      Unless they show some signs of remorse and understanding of what they did wrong, this may be a situation where a life term would be best. I can’t see any way that they’ll ever be safe to be released given that they have a history of torturing children “for their own good”.

  • jmb

    What I wonder is how many homeschooling/Evangelical parents will rush defend Larry & Carri as just poor misguided victims of the Pearls AND their own desire to lead these children to God, the way there were so many who leapt to excuse the Schatz parents.

    • mpanchuk

      I’m sure many will do exactly what you describe, and it makes me furious. I have friends who experienced this sort of treatment as children (thankfully none of them died), and I am absolutely certain that their parents are culpable.

  • Space Blizzard

    I’ve never seriously suggested this before, but I’d be all in favour of banning the Pearl’s book from publication. That thing had caused too much misery already.

    • indorri

      I don’t think that would help, in the long run. I think it’s more of a symptom of a deranged and perverted morality on bringing up children than a cause.

      What needs to happen, ideally, is treating child abuse as child abuse and not letting people get away with it under rhetoric of parent’s rights. We need to treat children as other humans that parents have a responsibility to raise, rather than something to be built.

    • Beutelratti

      It’s banned in a few European countries … that doesn’t stop some parents from downloading it though.

    • DataSnake

      I’d go the opposite route: know your enemy. Anyone who thinks “parental rights” justify, say, not placing any regulations on homeschooling should be made to read the Pearls’ complete works and told that THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO GENUINELY THINK THAT’S PROPER CHILDCARE. If the general public knew just how messed up these “child training” methods are, HSLDA would have about as much clout as NAMBLA, and laws could actually be made to prevent this sort of thing from happening again.

      • Sally

        Good point.

  • Saraquill

    The Williams’ defense attorney must be having a hard time establishing reasonable doubt.

  • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

    The Pearls’ book actually says to put children outside in cold weather as punishment?? That’s almost unbelievably inhumane.

    • Ahab

      And VERY dangerous. Children can’t regulate their body temperature as efficiently as adults, so their risk of hypothermia is much greater.

    • Sally

      I would like to know exactly what the excerpt says. That and the cold baths. Those two things aren’t even common among people who spank. I’m not excusing what the Pearls do say, but I’d just like to know if the book actually says these two things and what it says.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne



        A good friend and neighbor had a big three-year-old boy who would sit outside driving nails with a hammer and dumping in his diaper. I suggested it was time to have a man-to-man talk with the kid about the environmental implications of making such large contributions of plastic to the city dump. The father explained that he did not want to cause guilt or stifle the young man’s personality. I well understood his concerns, for I have seen distraught, impatient parents doing emotional damage to their children through verbal abuse. So, I suggested a training exercise.

        First, I pointed out that the boy’s mother, busy with the other children, would, several times a day, pick up this big kid, talk sweet to him, lay him on a bed, take off the dirty diaper, wipe him with a warm rag, rub a little lotion on the chaffed spots and then put a fresh, smooth diaper on him. Dumping in his pants was an opportunity to get his mother’s undivided attention. Now, we understand that there is no guilt or blame in this matter, especially on the child’s part, but there is something quite inconvenient–except for the kid who loved the experience and must have found it the highlight of his day.

        So, my suggestion was that the father explain to the boy that, now that he was a man, he would no longer be washed in the house. He was too big and too stinky to be cleaned by the babywipes. From now on, he would be washed outside with a garden hose. The child was not to be blamed. This was to be understood as just a progressive change in methods. The next dump, the father took him out and merrily, and might I say, carelessly, washed him off. What with the autumn chill and the cold well water, I don’t remember if it took a second washing or not, but, a week later, the father told me his son was now taking himself to the pot. The child weighed the alternatives and opted to change his lifestyle. Since then, several others have been the recipients of my meddling, and it usually takes no more than three cheerful washings.”

        It doesn’t say cold, but it does say that if you want to get your kid to stop pooping in their diaper and start pooping in the toilet, you hose them outside rather than letting them have baths. I’ve heard of people interpreting this the same for bed wetting, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this was what was happening.

      • AnotherOne

        This makes me so angry, since this is what the Williams did to their adopted son. Only the wetting didn’t magically go away after a week, because their traumatized adopted child had enuresis, which seems to have gotten progressively worse (surprise, surprise) since the Williams decided to beat/hose/lock him up every time he had an accident.

        Of course it goes without saying that even Michael Pearl’s version of this punishment is beyond screwed up. The kid is so needy for mom’s undivided attention that he’ll do whatever it takes to keep the 30-second diaper change routine happening? That’s no problem. Keep popping out the babies, and if your kids object to not getting any parental attention, just hose them down with cold water. That’ll teach them. Honestly, people like Michael Pearl and the Williams make the concept of hell seem like a pretty good idea.

      • brbr2424

        That’s the crazy thing. With all the sadistic punishments (torture), it wasn’t working. A less intense and ideologically driven person would do research on why it wasn’t working. I never gave my kids a hard time when they woke me up, having peed in their sleep. I would get myself out of bed and get them into a warm shower, fresh pajamas and dry sheets. They found it unsettling enough without me adding to the stress. How can you hold someone responsible for something their body does while they are asleep.

      • smrnda

        People who are too ignorant to understand things like logic and have no understanding of how the human body (or brain, for that matter) work can draw conclusions that are obviously bullshit to the rest of us, but make perfect sense to them.

        I’d also say some people are drawn to these worldviews because it makes them feel big and powerful to dominate little kids, and they just aren’t that interested in learning facts either.

        These people advocate treating children like disposable rubbish, and then they advocate popping out a lot of them? O, I forgot, kids exist to boost your ideological clones.

      • Sally

        OK, again, not excusing this at all. But when people say cold baths and putting their children out in the cold for punishment, that is different than this (which still doesn’t make the hose OK). Maybe I’m remembering a movie I saw once where a parent actually punished the children by giving them ice water baths and making them sit in the ice bath for a certain amount of time. And then I’m imagining the Pearl’s book saying “Put your child outside in the cold in winter without a coat for punishment.” It’s not that I’m saying what the Pearls do say is OK. It’s that those two things are even worse and the Pearls don’t say to do those things.
        If people start to attribute to the Pearls things they don’t say, then they can focus on defending themselves against what they didn’t say (I’ve seen them do this several times on YouTube) and they don’t have to face the harm they do with what they do say (like the hose and the plumbing tubing, etc).

      • The_L1985

        ” the kid who loved the experience and must have found it the highlight of his day.”

        …If having to have your diaper changed is the highlight of your day, something is horribly wrong.

  • Machintelligence

    Just curious, is the HSLDA involved in their defense? I doubt that they would want to touch this case.

    • Alice

      You’d be surprised, sadly, because they’ve defended several abusive scumbags in the past. One of them kept his kids in cages. HSLDA thinks everyone should be allowed to home-school and “discipline” their kids no matter how abusive they are. Libby Anne wrote some posts about this a while back, tagged under “HSLDA.”

      However, I don’t think HSLDA is involved in this one since home-schooling isn’t one of the issues in the trial.

  • Sam

    I’m not normally a fan of book burnings but I think everything the Perls ever wrote should be incinerated.
    This article makes me sick to read. It’s horrifying. Those parents deserve to go to jail.

  • Katherine Hompes

    It may just be me (although I doubt it), but I’m getting the distinct impression that these children were adopted to basically be slaves for the parents- not only domestically, but also serving as “whipping boys”. Makes it even more incredibly heinous and inhumane than simply attempting to “train up” a child. It makes me feel sick to think about it.

    • mpanchuk

      I would agree except that I know biological children who were treated exactly the same way by their conservative, homeschooling Christian parents. When you put together anger problems, a stay-at-home parent who feels overwhelmed by their large brood, together with the desire to have everything exactly your way, it probably sounds really nice to have someone tell you that anything you do to force your kids to submit is permissible. And that is indeed sickening.

      • Katherine Hompes

        Although there may be parents that do treat their biological children this way, from what has been written about this case, these parents did not treat their biological children in the same manner as those they adopted- which I’d what leads me to think that they adopted children (and from Africa, to boot) with the preconceived intention to use them as slaves. That is… More than a little problematic, and full of horrible, racist overtones.

      • mpanchuk

        I definitely see your point. And that may be the way it happened. But I can imagine them adopting without preconceived intentions, but thinking that children raised in a “pagan” culture without the benefit of “training” at a young age (which their biological children had) would be prone to be especially rebellious. Thankfully, most kids are not raised to think that nothing they want, think, or need matters. For parents like these, children thinking their own desires matter is construed as rebellion. Hence, they treat them differently from their “non-rebellious” (i.e. brainwashed) children.

      • Rosa

        Any child not raised by the Pearls’ will-breaking methods would be more rebellious than a child not raised that way.

        Think about that: coming up through an institution in a poorer country is less damaging than being raised by the Pearls’ methods.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001411188910 Lucreza Borgia

        Many of the children adopted from Ethiopia are not really institutional children. There is a huge problem in that country where adoption agencies are recruiting families into giving up their children and not really explaining what adoption means in the US. They are led to believe that their children are going to the US for school and that they will still have contact. Lots of these children are coming from intact families who are very poor. Imperialism at its finest.

      • Sally

        Yes, this is in that NPR story (linked upthread). They’re not even necessarily “saving” orphans.

      • smrnda

        Many obnoxious American white people don’t want to help Africans by sending money, improving infrastructure or actually helping families – they want to buy the kids so they can engage in cultural imperialism. Like the old schools for Native youth that were only designed to destroy Native culture.

      • Rosa

        That’s true (and horrible) but the surviving child had lost his parents, the psychologist who sees him testified that he suffered grief from their deaths but trauma from living with the adoptive parents. I don’t know about Hana’s family of origin, it doesn’t seem to have come up in the coverage of the case at all.

      • Kathleen Margaret Schwab

        Sounded to me like seeing their parents die in their home country was less traumatic than life in this “Christian” home. Sad, so sad.

      • AnotherOne

        This is my take on it, too. I think the Williams probably had absolute faith in their childrearing methods, and that when the formula didn’t “work” on the adopted children, things went horribly wrong. These poor traumatized children had been uprooted from an already difficult life full of grief and loss, taken across the world, and confronted with an entirely new and harsh reality that they had to process through the barriers of language and disability. And the only way the Williams could conceptualize their behavior was to call it “rebellion.”

      • godislove

        the “pagan” thing would not work simply because Ethiopia is actually majority christian and was actually the first christian nation in Africa. These people were simply sadists who enjoyed abusing their two adopted kids as a means of letting out their anger. Simply put, these people were bullies and they give other devout Christians who believe in the mercy-fullness and love of Christ a bad name.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne
      • ako

        From what I read about these kinds of adoptions, I think it’s a different kind of racism. The kind where they start out assuming that whatever they provide for the child is so much better than anything in Africa, and they’re the noble White Savior, so the child should be grateful for whatever they get. And when they’re actually around the children, a lot of unconscious stereotypes about black people being scary, dangerous, and sexually uncontrollable kick in, which combined with the “Everything that isn’t perfect obedience is rebellion!” mindset, results in interpreting the child’s every action in the worst possible light, and thinking the only remedy is to beat the kid harder.

      • Christine

        Even without the intercultural issues, an adoption into a family like this one would probably have a lot of problems. Dynamics are very different with children who are adopted (other than as very young babies) than with children who were born into the family (or adopted as very young babies). When you combine this with a fairly abusive parenting philosophy, and a one-size-fits-all mentality, bad things are fairly certain to happen.

      • Trollface McGee

        It’s common for abusive families to single out a child for abuse, and of course, adoptive kids are at greater risk because of the whole adoption thing (and I’d bet that there is at least a good bit of racism involved). Even when it’s white kids being adopted, the attitude that’s often presented is the noble American lifting the child out of horrible conditions.
        This is why I cringe whenever people people say “oh just adopt.” No child deserves parents like these.

  • Christine

    One thing I found interesting, and disturbing. The two oldest sons are unwilling to testify, because charges may be brought against them through their testimony. This implies to me they know they’ve done the wrong thing – but aren’t willing to face the consequences. Cowards.

    • jhlee

      Well that is their Constitutional right under the Fifth Amendment. Assholes get their rights, too, else no one does. If the prosecution decides that bringing these horrible parent to justice by getting their sons’ full testimony is worth giving immunity, it’s a decision I can get behind.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      I’m conflicted about this, actually. I spanked my siblings. The Pearls teach parents to have their older children spank the younger ones. I’m unclear on how old the Williams boys were at the time, but considering the next biological sibling to them was 12, I’m going to guess they were probably in the 14 to 17 year age range. At the same age as them, I was spanking my siblings, and I honestly didn’t know it was wrong. I never felt guilty about it, either, because I was thoroughly indoctrinated in the Pearls’ child training methods. Does that mean I wasn’t culpable? Not necessarily, but I honestly feel that the older boys were probably victims as well as perpetrators. Their parents had raised them on the Pearls’ methods too. That said, given that the adopted kids were treated differently, this could all be completely different from my situation, I don’t know.

      • Shiny

        The difference is that none of your siblings ended up dead because of what you did.
        Also because they aren’t testifying we can’t know what they did. Was it ‘just’ hitting her as a ‘justified’ punishment because she was ‘being rebellious’? Or did they realise that they could hurt Hana for no reason the way their parents hurt them and go much further?
        I agree, there’s a degree to which they could be considered victims as well. But there has to be a point where a person realises that something is terribly, terribly wrong with what is happening. Even amongst people raised on ‘training’ methods like the Pearls.

      • Jolie

        Are you familiar with the Milgram experiment on obedience to authority figures?

        65% of participants- pretty much random adults, not more brainwashed than the rest of the population- went as far as to inflict what looked like a potentially fatal electroshock on a human being because a guy in a lab coat told them to.

        Now, imagine this being 16-18 year-olds instead of adults, their parents instead of an experimenter and add to that being raised in an environment when they are specifically taught that blind, complete, unquestionning obedience is expected of them and that abuse is normal and morally correct; plus being abusively conditioned in this direction themselves.

      • The_L1985

        I feel that the Milgram experiment should be required as part of the high school curriculum. I’m just not sure where we’d fit it in.

      • Jolie

        A while ago, on a blog (may have actually been here) I have heard of parents “training” their children to instantly obey purely and intentionally nonsensical orders and punishing the slightest questioning of them. The first thing that popped in my head was the Milgram experiment. Those kids were deliberately trained to apply a mortal shock to a human being if some guy in a lab coat asked them to. Or to steal from the parents themselves for the first bully that threathens them.

      • Gillianren

        I took psychology in my sophomore year, and, yes, that included the Milgram experiment in the curriculum.

      • The_L1985

        There are high schools with psychology classes? Cool!

      • Gillianren

        Yup. When I was in high school, sophomore social studies was “take two of this list of options.” I took California history and psychology, and I’m pretty sure ethnic studies and sociology were the other two choices.

      • Monimonika

        When I was in high school, there was an a Behavioral Science class that taught us basic psychology. We (including the teacher) all lovingly called it BS. ;-)

      • tsara


      • The_L1985

        Civics would be a good choice, but I hear they don’t teach that anymore. Something about it not being on standardized tests, I think.

      • tsara


        I had civics class (grade nine, so six years ago, at an Ontario independent school), but all we did was write CVs and cover letters, take vocational interest tests, and fill out a couple worksheets on our governments. It didn’t even have its own timeslot.

        But still, that sounds like one of the easier school-related problems to fix.

      • Christine

        I don’t actually see how you managed to get your OSSD, because that does not meet the curriculum standards. (The career studies half sounds like it does, although it sounds like you may have done more useful stuff than the curriculum allows). Granted, most of what I did was so inane that I can see it slipping most people’s minds fairly quickly.

      • tsara

        We had an inspection the following year, and I think the program changed after that. We did have a bunch of field trips — with worksheets — that counted as civics. I could also be missing things, because I require either caring about what I’m learning or a sense of continuity from one lesson to another to absorb things properly and I was completely uninterested in government at the time and there was not even the slightest bit of continuity from one civics-thing to another. I was never quite sure if some trip or lunch-break lecture were for civics or not, and that is really not conducive to building a mental model.

      • Anat

        Civics is a graduation requirement in Washington state for the class of 2016 and on. There are also 2 AP exams that cover civics-related topics (US Government and Comparative Government, IIRC). And there is an AP Psychology exam too.

        Additionally my daughter’s school offers a couple of psychology electives, one counts as a social studies elective, the other as an occupational education class.

      • smrnda

        We actually talked about in when I was in high school.

        For the record, I went to a public high school in Chicago.

      • Christine

        I don’t think it belongs in high school. That’s far too late to fix basic parenting neglect. (Also: teach your kids about the fact that it’s worked since, after everyone heard about it, so they shouldn’t assume that they know better now.)

      • Rosa

        Kid-on-kid violence is not at all rare in violent homes, just like lateral aggression is common in any oppressive hierarchy. It’s how humans are. Even if it’s not ideologically justified, it happens. I don’t think we can blame the older children.

        Personally, I know several people who were heroic children in similar circumstances – running away, telling authorities, physically protecting younger siblings. They are amazing people, strong, brave – heroes. I wish that kind of heroism were a result of their childhoods, not something they held onto despite them. But it’s not fair to them or to their less-amazing siblings to hold everyone to that standard. People are brainwashed and broken by abuse, but they’re still not the source of it as relatively powerless minors.

      • Jessica Boone

        That’s really disturbing the Pearls teach this. Besides the obvious reasons once the older children become adults they might want to go to the cops in order to save their siblings, but because their parents forced them to participate in disciplining the younger children they might be afraid of being charged with something. I mean I doubt they would be, but the Pearls do teach a violent distrust of the government. So distrust of government+ years of abuse might lead to the older siblings keeping quiet about the abuse.

      • AnotherOne

        Yes, this is exactly how I feel. I feel *horrible* when I think about how I aped my parents’ beliefs and actions when it came to “discipline.” I feel like I was completely brainwashed, and that I was in a toxic, emotionally abusive environment that made me toxic and emotionally abusive to my siblings. But I also feel so much guilt–so much guilt. I don’t think Hana and Immanuel would have ended up dead in my family, but I think many of the less spectacularly abusive behaviors would have gone on had they been in my family (i.e., they would have been spanked and constantly shamed and ostracized and isolated, but not locked in closets or forced outside in the cold–you know, the things that KILL children). And I think I would have mimicked my parents’ convictions that they were rebellious, just like the other Williams (biological) kids did–you can see it in the detective’s affidavit. So I don’t know what I think about those older boys’ behavior. In a way, I think they are culpable, and in a way I think they were too abused/brainwashed themselves to be held responsible. Which is exactly how I feel about myself. :( Seriously, I can barely read about this case without throwing up and having PTSD flashbacks.

      • Christine in Australia

        AnotherOne I am sorry if anything I said made your PTSD worse. I wasn’t raised in this environment, so I truly didn’t think of those of you who were when I made my original comment. Once again, my sincere apologies.

      • AnotherOne

        No worries. I had already been thinking a lot about those older boys myself. The whole thing makes me sad, no one part of it more than another.

      • Christine in Australia

        (original poster Christine)
        Reading your comments, Libby Anne, and some of those who were raised in this lifestyle, has made me rethink my original position. Because I wasn’t raised by parents who thought it was fine to beat children, or have older siblings do it. I do think there should be some mechanism to encourage these older siblings to testify, and I do hope they are fully aware of the consequences of their actions, but now I am not as condemnatory as I was.

    • gimpi1

      I understand how you feel, Christine, but these guys were brought up under this abuse and viewed it as normal. They were also brought up never to hesitate when given a parental order, on pain of a beating. Remember – in this culture – anything other than “cheerful, immediate obedience” is rebellion, a great sin. Some parents brag about making rules for their kids, then ordering the kid to break the rule, to make sure the kid understands that the parent is to be obeyed over even the rules the parent makes. Sick, I know.

      I’m willing to cut them a bit of slack because of the brain-washing abusive life they have been raised in. When you get outside the bubble, the bubble looks a whole lot different.

      • Christine

        It’s also entirely possible that once Hana died and/or once their parents were charged they saw, for the first time, that it might not have been the right thing to do. If they were sheltered enough they might not have any concept of what is and isn’t abusive.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        That may be, but it’s no excuse for abusing another living being.

      • Christine

        Of course it’s not, but the question was if they knew at the time that they were doing something wrong.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        They could believe and “know” they were doing the right thing all they want. It doesn’t change the fact that they did very harmful wrongs, and need to face appropriate consequences.

        Any consequences laid upon the parents should be doubled for dragging their kids into it like that.

      • AnonaMiss

        It’s my understanding that if you commit a crime under duress (e.g. if you have reason to fear for your life if you don’t comply), you aren’t legally culpable. Given that the parents literally killed one of their children, and these boys were minors in their care, I think it could easily be argued that any abuse they inflicted was done under duress/fear for their own safety.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        Which is why the consequences should be tailored to help them work through those experiences. I’m not saying “throw the kids in prison.” I’m saying, “get them appropriate care, including intensive therapy, and maybe some community service or something.”

      • Christine in Australia

        As you may have guessed, I wasn’t raised in this environment. I am now deeply sorry I used the word “cowards” to describe the two siblings, and I sincerely hope they are now aware of the consequences of these actions and never want to repeat them.

  • smrnda

    What scares me is that these parents, who obviously had zero cultural sensitivity to anyone outside of their own white Protestant Fundamentalist in-group, did not send out red flags when they were looking to do an international adoption. You’d think prospective adoptive parents would be vetted for this given that there are unique challenged with adopting a child from another culture, particularly when they’re older.

    • Rosa

      They even went through an accredited agency, not an obviously shady one.

    • Trollface McGee

      The international adoption system is badly broken. The international adoption process can go completely through evangelical organisations that subscribe to the whole quiverful/parental rights crap with no outside oversight. There may be nothing beyond that in-group with any rights or ability to do anything and it’s designed to be that way.

  • brbr2424

    Carri’s reaction during the 911 call and immediately after the death show just how depraved she was. She reported that her daughter had committed suicide. Carri came to believe her two adopted children were out to get her and instead of being remorseful, she is angry that Hana got the better of her by dying.

    (from Wikipedia) Paradoxical undressing

    Twenty to fifty percent of hypothermia deaths are associated with paradoxical undressing. This typically occurs during moderate to severe hypothermia, as the person becomes disoriented, confused, and combative. They may begin discarding their clothing, which, in turn, increases the rate of heat loss.

    Carri described her daughter as being “rebellious” by undressing and throwing herself around outside, when in fact she was dying of hypothermia. I thought doing meth and staying out all night was teenage rebellion. Apparently dying is rebellious also.

    • Jolie

      It’s really scary how this makes sense in the context of seeing anything a child might do except follow instructions like a robot as “rebellion”.

      (I mean the “Oh, kid tries to reach out to explore things/can’t yet articulate a “please”/is cranky after a long day- he clearly is doing this to make you his b*tch and manipulate you” bull.)

      • ako

        This, so much. A parent who thinks the most important thing to stamp out rebellion can easily abuse the kid to the point that the child is no longer capable, if they ever were, of obeying the parents. And the behavior of a child starving, freezing, or bleeding to death on the inside can, though the single-minded fixation on rebellion, be twisted into another act of defiance. I think a lot of people who buy into this mindset believe the parent will inevitably be able to break the child’s will and force obedience before doing any serious damage, and that’s how some of them end up murdering their children.

      • gimpi1

        Absolutely, Jolie. The idea that any sign of independent thought must be savagely quashed is one of the most disturbing parts of what I find to be a very disturbing sub-culture.

      • smrnda

        They advocate beating babies for the normal behavior of reaching and grabbing things so this is no surprise.

  • The_L1985

    Why am I not surprised that Hana was black and her adoptive parents white? Or that the Williamses didn’t do any of these things to their own biological children?

    It’s exactly like the Lydia Schatz case–and it’s really, REALLY hard to argue that racism isn’t a factor in the differentiated punishments. Even “White Man’s Burden”-type racism can be deadly in this kind of home environment.

    • gimpi1

      I think you’re right. It may not be conscious racism, but I think it is racism none the less.

      I have known people who believe they have no tinge of racism, but obviously think that, if they know what color a person’s skin is or what their country-of-origin is, then they know enough to make judgements about that person. That is pretty-much the definition of racism, in my book.

    • Shayna

      There was one involving a little boy (Ethan I think?), and he was white. I could be wrong, but I honestly think it had more to do with being biological vs. adopted than with race.

      Raising a child from birth via Pearl methods is going to be a completely different experience from raising an adopted child (who has already experienced trauma, and possibly abuse). One has never known anything else and more or less trusts you implicitly as a parent, the other will have life experiences that vary wildly and has absolutely NO reason to trust anyone.

      Behaviors like food hoarding/stealing are fairly commonplace in older adoptees. What would that (totally normal response, considering abusive/neglectful backgrounds) look like to a Pearl follower? Their whole philosophy is a recipe for disaster.

      • AnotherOne

        I know. All the behaviors the Williams were so convinced were “rebellion” were textbook behaviors of traumatized, older adopted children, or else seem related to being deaf (in their son’s case) or not speaking English well (in Hana’s case). Food stealing and hoarding, enuresis, not responding quickly or “correctly,” not understanding directions or completing tasks/schoolwork “properly,” etc.

        These people should never, ever have been allowed to adopt.

    • Saraquill

      Immanuel, her adopted brother, is also deaf, so there’s probably a bit of ableism going on too.

  • Abby Normal

    My mom homeschooled my younger sisters. The year one of my sisters graduated, there was this weird family in their co-op that pretty much left because no one got along with them. I don’t know if they got into Pearl stuff, but they were freakishly strict (the kids were put in charge of planning the graduation ceremony themselves and these folks flipped out because they basically thought the kids shouldn’t be doing *anything* without the parents being involved.)

    My point is, that family was seen as freaky even among a bunch of conservative Christian homeschoolers. Shouldn’t (in theory) the stuff that the Williams’ (and the Pearls) have done be seen as way out there even for conservative evangilical types? Wasn’t there *someone* in their own community who recognized that they were more than a little over the top?

    I mean, I always thought my parents were pretty conservative, but they never would’ve even considered any of the crap that the Pearls write.

    • AnotherOne

      Yes. If you read the detective’s affidavit, it’s very revealing. Several people from their church community came forward after Hana’s death and voiced their concerns about how the children were being treated, including another mother who had adopted children transnationally and transracially and who felt that Carri Williams had not bonded with her adopted children. Of course, these people should have come forward before that poor child died, but at least they aren’t circling the wagons and trying to defend the Williams.

      • Abby Normal

        Crap, that’s awful that no one came forward until after the fact.

        I don’t know–it seems to me that these whackos are already so used to getting criticized by the secular world–Libby’s site and others like it are just seen as coming from the liberal/feministmiilieu that they already ignore. It seems like the loudest criticism, the ones that should be reporting these abusers, should be the ones in their own circle. I mean, if I were a conservative evangelical type (I’m not) I would want to distance myself from this sort of thing as much as possible.

  • smrnda

    I really think potential adoptive parents who want to adopt kids from another nation or culture need to get vetted to see if they have adequate sensitivity and awareness to handle children from outside of their subculture.

    • Christine

      You do have to get training, but it’s easy to pretend that you’re going to do what they say, and then ignore all of it. After all, these people ignore the whole “don’t be child abusers” with their own children, do you really expect them to listen to what outside authorities say, especially when a lot of it contradicts what is normally said for how to raise children?

    • Beutelratti

      This, oh, so much this. Some companies train their employees for the specific country to which they’re being sent. If you need to be aware of the culture of business partners why on earth would you not be made aware of the culture of the children you’re going to adopt? There are so many variables and so much can go wrong in intercultural communication between adults, that means even more can go amiss between adult and child.

  • brbr2424

    Does anyone know how the bio children are doing now? The reports say they are with relatives. Are they all with the same relatives. Are the relatives as nutty as the parents? Are they still being “trained” with the Pearl methods. Do they get to attend school?

  • Kathleen Margaret Schwab

    Wow, I just read Michael Pearl’s blog post on people who question his discipline methods – he laughs at them. Because the number of dead kids in homes who follow his teachings is just fucking hilarious.

    • XakirTatsu

      Mind sharing the link?

      • Kathleen Margaret Schwab

        I especially love this gem:

        “Numbered in the millions, these kids (the ones disciplined according to Pearl wisdom) become the models of self-control and discipline, highly educated and creative—entrepreneurs that pay the taxes your children will receive in entitlements.”

        If you are too much of a sissy to spank that kid right, he will end up on welfare.

        But why pick just one favorite, here is the whole wonderfl post:

      • XakirTatsu

        He sites no sources, why am I not surprised.

        I imagine it would be hard to learn creativity from that household, your options are obey or get hit. If you try to come up with a creative win-win, people like him would hit you just because they can. “instant obediance with a smile” does not create creativity, coming up with solutions together does. (granted, I know not everything can be a win-win)

        I wonder why he connects not spanking to the non-spanked child having self loathing and needing therapy….

      • Kathleen Margaret Schwab

        Pearl believes that “breaking the child’s will” sets the child free – then they can be creative, happy, ect. You break their will by spanking them whenever they don’t immediately obey. This has a similarity to a very old theory of child rearing – I have read that in medival times people spoke of breaking in children the way one broke in horses. To us that probably sounds dehumanizing, but it was the way they talked about it. In the 1800s the breaking the will thing had some popularity too, people wrote about it. My opinion is that although there is a long history behind the term “breaking” in childrearing, I don’t beleive that people in general went about it in the methodical and detailed way that the Pearl’s advocate. I think most people are just plain too reasonable. Pearl adocates breaking the will over things like not having the right attitude, not using the right tone of voice. People who have grown up in families using the Pearl system report things like not understanding why they are being spanked, over and over, not being able to prodce the right tone or facial expression – often out of confusion or fear – and getting repeated spankings.
        To outsiders it sounds crazy – but the whole idea that unless you break your childs will you will set them up for a miserable and unproductive life is why parents get so set on Pearl’s discipline methods that they end up killing the kids. The parents are afraid of ruining the kids – that article gave you an idea of how much mercy this community shows to those who in their minds fail at parenting. Pearl terrorizes parents as well as convincing them to terrorize their kids.

  • PP

    Can we watch this trial? Is there a website to watch?

  • Unknown

    I went to church with the family at Bethel Assembly of God in Sedro Woolley. I remember the family seemed so nice, but so strange. They kept to themselves a lot. Although I did not go to church every Sunday, I never noticed the two adopted children with them. I had heard they adopted two kids from Ethiopia, but I found it strange that I only saw their biological children with them.

  • Torina

    I went to junior and high school with this mother. She was the kindest most God fearing person I knew. What a different person she turned out to be. This was NOT God’s plan for these children. SHAME on you Carri and Larry. You both deserve the death penalty, NOT life in prison. Why should you get to live, when you killed an innocent child?