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October 30, 2013

Couple get decades in prison for girl's death

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. (AP) — A Washington couple accused of starving, beating and forcing their adopted daughter outside as punishment were sentenced Tuesday to decades in prison for her death.

Larry and Carri Williams were convicted Sept. 9 of manslaughter in the death of a teenage girl they adopted from Ethiopia. Carri Williams was also found guilty of homicide by abuse.

Hana Williams was found dead May 12, 2011, in the backyard of the family home in Sedro-Woolley, about 60 miles north of Seattle. The autopsy said she died of hypothermia, with malnutrition and a stomach condition as contributing factors.

Carri Williams was sentenced Tuesday to just under 37 years, the top of the standard sentencing range, by a judge who said she probably deserved more time in prison, the Skagit Valley Herald reported. Her husband received a sentence of nearly 28 years.

Both also were found guilty of assault of a child for punishing a boy they adopted in 2008 from Ethiopia at the same time as Hana.

Larry and Carri Williams were convicted after a seven-week trial in Skagit County Superior Court. Defense lawyers told jurors that questionable parenting practices didn’t necessarily amount to a crime.

On the rainy night Hana died, Carri Williams called 911 and reported Hana was not breathing, saying the girl had refused to come into the house. Hana was found face-down in the backyard with mud in her mouth.

Hana is believed to have been 13, but no documentation of her birth in Ethiopia was available.

The trial was postponed several times, and her body was exhumed in January. Tests on her teeth and bones gave varying estimates, and experts were unable to agree on her age. Her age was significant because the homicide by abuse charge applies only if the victim was younger than 16.

The boy from Ethiopia testified that the parents used sticks or belts to beat him all over his body as punishment. He also described being sprayed with a water hose if he wet his pants.

After the arrests, the boy and six biological children were placed in foster care or with relatives.

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