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An inspiration

Via Libby Anne

Couple pleads not guilty in homicide of adopted daughter

According to court documents, the couple’s adopted daughter, Hana Williams, 13, was systematically starved, beaten, forced to use an outdoor toilet and
sometimes locked in a dark closet for days by the Williams.

Hana Williams was found dead in May – naked, face-down in the mud in her own backyard – after she had spent much of a cold, rainy day outside as a punishment, according to court documents.

Although she died of hypothermia, there were other contributing causes to her death, including severe malnutrition and chronic gastritis, doctors said.

The Williams had adopted Hana from Ethiopia in 2008 as a diseased little girl to begin a new life in America.

Instead, according to court records, she was beaten, starved, forced to sleep in a barn at times and deprived of love and basic necessities.

Child Protective Services said there are reports that Hana had lost a
significant amount of weight before her death. And the night she died, she was
out in the yard naked on a rainy evening, with temperatures in the low 40s.

Further investigation revealed that Hana had a number of injuries on the
night she died, including a large lump on the head, bloody marks and injuries
“consistent with disciplinary impacts with a switch,” according to court
documents released Friday.

Those same documents describe the hellish life that Hana endured in the months before her death – which included systematic withholding of food, forced times outdoors in the cold or locked in a dark closet, interspersed with regular spankings or beatings with a plumbing tool.

In interviews with the parents and other children in the household, investigators determined that the Williams withheld food from Hana as a punishment for being “rebellious,” court documents say.

And

Hana also was forced to sleep in the barn on some nights or kept outside for hours in the cold without adequate clothing or shoes, court documents say – but she was allowed to wear shoes if there was snow on the ground.

The Williams also confirmed that they used a flexible plumbing tool as a switch to punish Hana and some of the other children in their household.

The children told investigators that Hana sometimes was beaten with a switch for standing more than 12 inches away from where she was told to stand or for speaking without permission.

The Williams’ older biological children were sometimes encouraged to join in administering the punishment by their parents.

Every refinement of horrible cruelty you can think of…for an adopted child…13 years old.

They got their ideas about child discipline from Michael Pearl.

Comments

  1. fastlane says

    umm, WTF kind of review was given to these monsters before they were allowed to adopt?

    Our system is failing these children. .

    They got their ideas about child discipline from Michael Pearl.

    Who should be beaten with a switch, starved for a week, and left naked outside in 40 degree weather……

  2. Kiwi Sauce says

    Are there alternative charges to lay against these people, e.g. torture, hate crime (they clearly do not love children)?

    And they want their other children back. /facepalm

  3. Hamilton Jacobi says

    The rational part of my mind doesn’t believe in “an eye for an eye”, but people like this really make it hard to stick with it.

    Michael and Debi must be proud — one more “trained up” for Jesus!

  4. says

    Hamilton:

    “Michael and Debi must be proud — one more ‘trained up’ for Jesus!”

    Christ on the cross is said to have said “Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do.”

    In this case, the only person qualified to do any forgiving – of the abusers and those who inspired them and egged them on – is sadly now dead.

    But I think those reported last words of Christ are worth consideration. People can be forgiven (by whoever) to the extent that they were unaware what result their decisions would have. The corollary of course is that to the extent that they were aware, their decisions become unforgivable, and they deserve punishment, sanction and public shaming.

  5. Tim DeLaney says

    How can one contemplate such unspeakable evil? What thoughts must have gone through this beautiful child’s head during her last hours?

  6. says

    They got their ideas about child discipline from Michael Pearl.

    All I want to know is, are we sure it was Pearl, and not some *other* asshole that provided the inspiration for this treatment?

  7. quantheory says

    I saw this a few days ago. Cynically, I immediately wondered who would be the first to claim that the problem was a lack of proper or “true” godly parenting, rather than sincere dedication to a horrific ideal. Apparently it was Pearl himself.

    Utterly perverse, everything about these events.

  8. says

    Marie-Therese:

    These loopy theories of ‘breaking the child’s will’ got their start in Victorian England, as far as I am aware.

    They appear to be inspired by the doctrine of Original Sin, in that it was ‘wilfulness’ that was Eve’s undoing, and then Adam’s. In this scheme, disobedience was the downfall of us all.

    ‘Wilfulness’ seems to equate with individual initiative. In the eyes of the authoritarians who seek to impose their own wills on everyone else, probably nothing could be worse.

    A pox on the lot of them, I say.

  9. Francisco Bacopa says

    Hmmm. “enemy combatant” prisoner at Abu Ghraib or adopted kid growing up with parents who read Michael Pearl?

    Tough choice.

  10. says

    That is pure evil what they did to Hana. Every detail makes it worse:

    The Williams told investigators that they made Hana use the outdoor toilet because she had hepatitis and they didn’t want any of their other children to become infected with the disease.

    Imagine that! Forcing a sick child to use the privy. Monsters.

  11. says

    To add to what Aratina said at #13, yes, hepatitis can be transmitted via fecal contamination. BUT — and this is important — all an infected person needs to really do is wash their hands after using the toilet (which should be a basic part of their hygienic routine anyway), and, hey, try not to bleed on anyone.

    There was no need to keep her quarantined, as the other kids were not at risk of contracting the disease. This… this was just cruelty.

  12. Jeff D says

    The reporter did not get the book title quite right, but it certainly seems to be “Reverend” Mike Pearl’s book.

    Were it not for the mention of the book title, the reference to the flexible piece of plumbing tubing, and the single reference to the playing of Bible tapes and Christian music, I would have gotten the impression that the couple now under arrest were just a pair of child-hoarding, serial-adopting sadists. If that impression were correct, then the “Bible-believin,’ devout Christian” element would seem to be surplusage, and the couple’s reliance on Mike Pearl’s book would seem to have been mostly coincidental. They could have gotten some specific tips on how to torture and starve an adopted girl to death from some other, general-purpose sadistic procedure manual, and not from a “Christian parenting” guide book. Mike Pearl’s book just happened to be handy.

    Sometimes I wonder whether sadists like this couple derive sanctimonious pleasure from mimicking the behavior of their imagined Old-Testament god . . . a jealous, vengeful, punishing god. But I can’t tell which came first in time: devout belief in that sort of god, or the general sadism, unembellished by religious feeling until after the habit of adopting and brutally mistreating children became deeply ingrained.

  13. says

    I am so horrified and upset by this case I have tears in my eyes right now. The Pearls are directly responsible for the girl’s death, so I wrote an email to the Skagit County Prosecutor. If you’d like to do the same, I’d be honored if you wanted to use my email, or write one of your own. Here’s what I sent:

    ——
    from: deannajoy@livingafterfaith.com
    to: prosecutor@co.skagit.wa.us
    date: Sat, Oct 8, 2011 at 3:15 AM
    subject: Hana Williams Case

    Hello, I am contacting you because I am very saddened to hear about the abuse surrounding the death of Hana Williams. Are you the prosecuting attorney in this case? http://www.komonews.com/news/local/131234864.html

    I immediately took notice of the mention of a book called “How to Train Up Your Child” by Michael and Debbie Pearl, which recommends as “punishments” the very same abuse that the parents inflicted upon the girl:

    “A witness told investigators that the Williams got their ideas for the disciplinary measures from a book, “How to Train Up Your Child,” which recommends switchings with a plumbing tool, cold water baths, withholding food and putting children out in cold weather as forms of punishment. ” These are indisputably the causes of the girls death: “Although she died of hypothermia, there were other contributing causes to her death, including severe malnutrition and chronic gastritis, doctors said. ”

    The authors of that book should be prosecuted along with the Williams’ as I consider them to be directly responsible for Hana’s death. They and their ministry’s philosophies can be found here, as well as
    any relevant contact information. http://www.nogreaterjoy.org/

    I also found disturbing the practice quoted in the article as: “Other punishments included locking Hana inside a dark closet for hours or days without food while the parents played the Bible on tape and Christian music for her while she was locked inside, according to court documents.” It seems obvious in retrospect that this abuse was motivated by the religious beliefs and methods recommended by the Pearls.

    This may seem like some fringe cultish thing, but their book is actually pretty popular within the evangelical movement, which manages to fly under the radar most places. I hope that this case, and the book which is responsible for the methods of abuse present in it, can bring to light the horrors of this philosophy. Perhaps the abuse of another 9 children can be prevented in the future.

    Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

    Deanna Joy Lyons

  14. Rudi says

    What I don’t get – or simply missed – is how these abusers can possibly be pleading “not guilty” to her homicide, having already admitted to the catalogue of a abuses that lead directly to it? Is their defence that their litany of violence, forced starvation and hypothermia was somehow INCIDENTAL to the actual cause of her death?

  15. says

    That’s an excellent message to the prosecutor, Deanna Joy.

    I don’t suppose there’s the smallest chance that the Pearls can be prosecuted though. I keep worrying about this. Their book is one that really should be withdrawn from sale and pulped…but the First Amendment makes that pretty much impossible, as far as I know.

  16. says

    Thanks, Ophelia!

    I also think that there’s only a small chance that the Pearls will be prosecuted, but I sure hope they will. Prosecutors are sometimes very influenced by pressure from the public. Even if they aren’t charged at all, maybe we can bring some more widespread media attention to the circumstances surrounding this case. Word is that B&N stopped selling it awhile back due to public pressure after the death of another child.

    Eventually, I would like for Amazon to decide not to carry the book, but for now, it has a lot of very negative reviews from people who call it child abuse. The thing with this case that makes it different and hopefully more prosecutable, is that the child died specifically from two methods advocated in the book (withholding food and leaving out in the cold).

    One previous case it was stated by the authors that they didn’t advocate beating a child *until they died*, of course, only till they learned their lesson. I’m hoping that the idea will come though that no amount of starving and leaving a child out in the cold is acceptable, therefore, child abuse and death. Hope this goes somewhere! Thanks guys!

  17. says

    Good points. I will email the prosecutor.

    Are you on Facebook, Deanna Joy? It might be an idea to suggest it there, too, if you are. If not, I could.

    Might be an idea to email Rachel Maddow, too. Anderson Cooper. Law bloggers.

  18. says

    Great, thanks so much Ophelia. You rock!

    I’ll send messages to Rachel Maddow and Anderson Cooper, fantastic ideas. And I’ll find some good law bloggers. Betcha Ed Brayton knows who to talk to! :)

  19. Tim DeLaney says

    As sympathetic as I am to the idea that the Pearls be prosecuted, I agree with Ophelia’s first reaction to this idea:

    I don’t suppose there’s the smallest chance that the Pearls can be prosecuted though. I keep worrying about this. Their book is one that really should be withdrawn from sale and pulped…but the First Amendment makes that pretty much impossible, as far as I know.

    The further we push the idea that speech itself can be criminalized and punished, the closer we come to seeing PZ and Ed and Ophelia hauled away in handcuffs. As hideous as it might sound, Hana’s death is one of the prices we must pay for having the First Amendment.

    Larry and Carri Williams were directly responsible for Hana’s agony and death; they should be caged for life. The Pearls escape punishment because we value free speech, even the speech of vile and hateful people.

    We do what we can (Take note: via free speech) to influence B&N and Amazon to drop their wretched book. We condemn the Pearls and their hateful ideas. But, alas, we cannot legally stop them from expressing those evil ideas. That’s our agreement, as expressed in the Bill of Rights. We must live with it.

  20. says

    Tim,

    No, I don’t buy that. My first reaction (which hasn’t changed) was factual, not normative. I don’t think it can be done; that doesn’t mean I think it shouldn’t. I don’t think that; I think it should. I also think it would be very difficult, and perhaps impossible.

    Well…to clarify, what I think should be done is that the book should become unsellable. But then, it would become a samizdat publication, so that’s one reason it would be very difficult and perhaps impossible. I’m wishing for the impossible.

    But I don’t agree at all that support for free speech in general (which is never absolute in any case) entails accepting the occasional death by torture of a child at the hands of its parents. It’s not true that we can’t legally stop people from expressing certain ideas. (Think perjury, for example.)

  21. says

    To clarify some more (this issue always gets so confused…) –

    The point isn’t that the Pearls are vile and hateful. Of course that’s not a reason to call in the law. The point is that their book is an instruction manual for torture. The point about that is not that it’s a hateful idea, it’s that it’s resulting in actual torture. Legally, that may not make any difference, but I want to be clear about what I’m saying. The book is like a loaded gun in the hands of a psychotic. The issue isn’t vileness or hatefulness but real physical danger.

    Realistically, I don’t think the law can do anything about that, but as Deanna Joy says, maybe publicity can.

    This stuff just makes me despair.

  22. Tim DeLaney says

    Ophelia @ 25:

    I don’t know how–or even whether–I should answer this. It seems intuitively obvious that the Pearls ought to somehow be restrained, but how can that be done without doing violence to the First Amendment? I just don’t know.

    This stuff just makes me despair.

    And me too. What can we do but to press on?

  23. Didaktylos says

    I think what should be done is that all the Pearls’ works should be systematically pirated. They have the right to publish this pernicious crap – but they should be prevented from making a living from so doing.

  24. Tim DeLaney says

    Didaktylos @ 27

    I think what should be done is that all the Pearls’ works should be systematically pirated. They have the right to publish this pernicious crap – but they should be prevented from making a living from so doing.

    I can’t agree that the remedy is to break the law. Sometimes, this is appropriate. Sitting in the front of the bus, for example. But not here.

    How does this grab you? Require, by court order (after appropriate legislation) that the book be sold only under the following seal:

    “Warning: the Attorney General has determined that following the advice contained in this book would constitute felony child abuse.”

  25. says

    That’s actually a dang good idea. I wish I’d thought of it. I kept thinking, precisely, “they’re instructing people to commit multiple felonies, and how to do it.” I don’t suppose it will happen, but it ought to.

    Didaktylos, I don’t think the Pearls do have the right to publish their book; not in the moral sense. The legal right, probably; the moral right, hell no.

    But I want them punished much much much less than I want the book to disappear.

  26. Tim DeLaney says

    Ophelia:

    It was a spur-of-the-moment afterthought, but the more I think about it, the more I like it. FWIW, I have sent the following email to my Congressman, Joe Donnely (D) of Indiana.

    To: Congressman Joe Donnely
    Re: Proposed legislation

    This proposal stems from the following story:
    http://www.komonews.com/news/local/131234864.html

    Please note the paragraph near the end of the story:

    “A witness told investigators that the Williams got their ideas for the disciplinary measures from a book, “How to Train Up Your Child,” which recommends switchings with a plumbing tool, cold water baths, withholding food and putting children out in cold weather as forms of punishment.”

    Now, as you may or may not know, I am a staunch advocate of the First Amendment, as evidenced by the fact that I am a plaintiff in the “Family Dollar” lawsuit.

    However, a book that recommends such treatment for a “rebellious child” is, in my opinion, so dangerous that the government ought to get involved in some way.

    In light of the First Amendment guarantee of free speech, the book cannot be banned, nor can the authors be prosecuted for publishing unpopular (to put it mildly) ideas. But let’s borrow a page from the Surgeon General’s warning that is required on cigarette packs.

    Here is my suggestion: If a book advocates actions that would constitute a felony, the Attorney General could require that the book be sold only with a shrink-wrap seal and a prominent notice such as:

    “Warning: the Attorney General has determined that following the advice contained in this book would constitute felony child abuse.”

    Of course, the precise wording would depend on the nature of the book. And perhaps the requirement would have to be mandated by court order, to provide a safeguard against potential abuse. Finally, I think the bill should be named–at least unofficially–for Hana Williams.

    I think it’s unlikely, but if I get even a nibble from Donnely, I’ll report back.

  27. vicarofartonearth says

    It is too bad dueling is out of fashion, of course that would only help if Pearl was a gentle person.

    Maybe the Williams can find a hideout in the Vatican?

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