MOUNT VERNON — Jury selection began Monday for the trial of a Sedro-Woolley-area couple charged in the death of their adopted daughter, the Skagit County prosecutor’s office said.
Larry and Carri Williams have pleaded not guilty to charges of homicide by abuse and first-degree manslaughter in the death of Hana Williams.
She was found dead in the muddy back yard of the Williams’ home on a rainy night in May 2011. The autopsy found she died of hypothermia, hastened by malnutrition and a stomach condition.
Investigators say the Williams starved and beat Hana and forced her outside, the Skagit Valley Herald reported.
Hana is believed to have been 13, but no documentation of her birth in Ethiopia was available. Her age is significant because the homicide by abuse charge applies only if the victim was younger than 16.
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.
Lawyers plan to call various witnesses to testify about her age, including a possible Ethiopian relative.
The Williams also are charged with first-degree child assault, for allegedly abusing their son who was adopted from Ethiopia with Hana. He is believed to be a few years younger than her.
That boy and six biological Williams children were placed in foster care or with relatives.
Hana Williams was adopted in 2008 from Ethiopia. She lived in a closet, and some people who know Carri Williams said she regretted the adoption, court papers say.
Early May 12, Carri Williams called 911 and reported Hana was not breathing, saying the girl had refused to come into the house. She was found face down in the backyard with mud in her mouth.
Information from: Skagit Valley Herald, http://www.skagitvalleyherald.com