Religious parents convicted in death of adopted daughter

ReligionNewsBlog.com — The adoptive parents of a girl who died from hypothermia and starvation were convicted Monday after a five-week jury trial.

Larry and Carri Williams were both convicted of manslaughter in the first degree and assault in the first degree. Carri Williams was also convicted of homicide by abuse.

Each faces a possible life sentence.

Hana Williams, 13, was found dead in the couple’s backyard in May, 2011.

Court documents showed that although she died of hypothermia, there were other contributing causes to her death, including severe malnutrition and chronic gastritis.

She also had a number of injuries including ones “consistent with disciplinary impacts with a switch.”

Prosecutors alleged that Carri and Larry Williams turned their home into a torture chamber where they subjected Hana and her 12-year-old brother Emmanuel to horrendous abuse in the guise of discipline.

Hana and Emanuel were reportedly isolated from the family’s seven biological children. They were spanked and hit with a switch. Hana and her brother were also excluded from Christmas festivities and were often forced to eat outside.

Siblings have testified in court that Hana and her brother were given frozen food, as well as sandwiches soaked in water. Experts testified in court that Hana, in particular, had lost a significant amount of weight before she died.

Jurors have been told that Hana was frequently forced to sleep in the barn, or in a shower or closet. The girl reportedly spent up to 23 hours at a time in a closet, forced to listen to the Bible readings on cassette tape.

She was also frequently locked outside, even during cold and rainy weather, often wearing inadequate clothing. On the rainy night she died she was found naked and face down in the mud. Temperatures were in the low 40s.

Strict religious principles

While prosecutors said religion was not a factor in the trial, investigators pointed out that the couple followed strict religious principles described in the Christian parenting book titled “To Train Up a Child,” by Michael and Debi Pearl.

In recent years the controversial book has feature in a number of religion-related child abuse news stories

While Carri Williams was also convicted of homicide by abuse, but the jury deadlocked when it came to the same charge for Larry Williams.

On the stand Larry and Carri pointed the finger at each other, but Larry’s attorneys highlighted the fact that Larry was at work when Hana died. Carri home-schooled and disciplined Hana, Emmanuel, and the couple’s 7 biological children.

Carri was immediately taken into custody, with bail set at 1.5 million dollars.  Her husband was already in custody after he tried to contact the couple’s children in violation of a court order.

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