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U.S. mother guilty of manslaughter in death of Ethiopian adoptee

Hana Williams

Hana Williams

(GIN) — A Washington state mother who followed a religious handbook on using the stick to discipline the child was found guilty of homicide by abuse and manslaughter in the death of her Ethiopian-born adopted daughter.

Carri Williams and her husband Larry were both convicted of first-degree manslaughter in Hana Williams’ death and of first-degree assault for abusing a 12-year-old hearing-impaired boy adopted from Ethiopia at the same time as the teenage girl.

The case was closely observed by members of Seattle’s Ethiopian community who drove up almost every day to sit on the prosecutors’ side in silent support of Hana. Ethiopia is the second largest source of adoptions by U.S. parents after China.

One who came often was Metassibia Mulugeta, a school director, who called the case “heart-wrenching and unbelievable.”

Hana, 13, was found dead in her backyard on May 12, 2011, naked and wrapped in a sheet. She had been living with her adoptive parents since coming to America from Ethiopia in 2008.

According to court documents, Carri and Larry Williams starved Hana for days, put her in a locked closet, shower room and made her sleep outside in the barn in the cold.  She wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom in the house, but was forced to use a porta-potty behind the barn. In addition, Hana was struck daily with a plumbing tool, a tube with a round ball on the end.

The parents practiced the disciplinary teachings of a religious-themed book, entitled “To Train a Child Up,” published by No Greater Joy Ministries, which urges extensive use of “the rod.”  One of many negative reviews on Amazon.com, which sells the book, read, “This book makes my stomach turn and heart ache … In this book they advocate beating toddlers on the back of the legs with a switch at 4 months old. This book is pure evil.”

Last year, a group of private and public child-welfare agencies noted 15 cases where an adoption agency or court had “scrutinized and approved” a family for adopted children who later suffered at the families’ hand.

The families showed a common pattern of physical and emotional abuse, including isolating and depriving children of food.

“We do not do enough to prepare adoptive parents,” said Maureen McCauley Evans, a Seattle-based mother of Ethiopian adoptees who has been observing the trial since the beginning.

The Ethiopian Community Center in Seattle says it tries to help families with adopted children from Ethiopia, offering parenting classes, cultural camps and a welcoming ceremony based on Ethiopian traditions.

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