Tuesday, July 23, 2013

July 2013 Trial Update: Michael Pearl Related Death of Hanna Williams

The Williams Trial in Washington State began this week, nearly two years after the death of Hana Alemu (Williams).  There were issues concerning her age, her body was exhumed, and other problems delayed a more timely trial for the parents who adopted the child from Ethiopia and allegedly neglected her and abused her to the point of death.

For updates on the trial as it unfolds, I think that the best info can be found at the Why Not Train a Child website?  I am so grateful for the resources there.

Most recently, Hermana Linda who hosts the site has linked to a blog that is new to me, and it offers firsthand insights from the courtroom.  Maureen McCauley Evans is a Seattle writer, editor, and artist who has taken it upon herself to attend the as much of the trial as possible and encourages as many people who can to so to do likewise.  Find her writing at Light of Day Stories:  Lessons Learned from Adoption.


(Original post from 2Dec11.)
Hanna Willams

Another Pearl-related death, another adoptee from Africa. 

I'm upset that the show mentioned the Pearl's tender comments about Hanna Williams' death but that they neglected to mention the post that the Pearls put up in reference to Lydia Schatz' death wherein Pearl “laughs at critics.” He didn't seem to be doing any laughing on CNN when being grilled by Anderson Cooper. 

(The video clip shows all of the content contained in the clip.)

COOPER: Tonight on "360" following up on a story we first called "Ungodly Discipline." Kids beaten, sometimes killed because the adults say they're following the word of God. I told about Lydia Schatz who was just 7 when she was beaten to death. Her parents were convicted and sent to prison.

The Schatz's believed God wanted them to spank Lydia so hard that it hurt. It's an approach to discipline that many fundamentalists embrace.

There's even a training manual that's claimed to have sold more than a million copies. What's unclear is how many kids whose parents follow the book's advice have actually been killed.

Tonight, the book is at the center of another homicide case this time in Washington State bears striking similarities to the Lydia Schatz case. Here's Gary Tuchman.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Larry Williams is the husband. Carrie Williams, the wife. Together they were parents of eight, but now it's seven. The daughter they adopted from Ethiopia is dead. And if the allegations are true, some say they are the parents from hell.

(on camera): Mr. Williams, can I just ask you, did you love this child? Can you just answer that question if you loved this child?

(voice-over): The question is did Hannah die in the name of God? The Williams lived in a large piece of secluded land in Skagit County, Washington.

According to a sheriff's office affidavit, the mother told investigators she found 13-year-old Hannah face down outside the house with mud in her mouth and not breathing. But there's so very much she left out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The date of her death was not the first day she'd been struck.

TUCHMAN: Here is what the affidavit says. Hannah had a large lump on her head and several fresh red bloody markings on her hips, knees, elbows and face. And when doctors performed Hannah's autopsy, they declared the 13-year-old was abnormally thin.

On the forehead was a hematoma, swollen bruise. There were abrasions on the right and left upper pelvis area. There were patterned contusions on the legs. Prosecutors were investigating whether those beatings came because of biblical teachings.

The other children who implicate their parents in the affidavit told investigators Hannah was often left outside in the cold as discipline because she was rebellious.

Hannah was so weakened from the discipline hours of rain in the bone chilling cold was more than she could take according to authorities.

But listen to the initial 911 call from the mother to police. Look who she blames for her child's death.


UNIDENTIFIED OPERATOR: What is your emergency?

WILLIAMS: Yes. I think my daughter just killed herself.

UNIDENTIFIED OPERATOR: Why do you say that?

WILLIAMS: She's really rebellious and she's been outside refusing to come in. And she's been throwing herself all around. And then she collapsed.


RICH WEYRICH, SKAGIT COUNTY PROSECUTOR: If you didn't stand exactly where you were supposed to stand, that would be considered rebellious. And you could be punished for that.

TUCHMAN: In the affidavit, Hannah's 9-year-old brother told detectives that people like his dead sister got spankings for lying and go into the fires of hell.

Detectives say Larry Williams made his son stop talking to authorities after that. We met Larry Williams with his attorney in court during a motion hearing.

(on camera): Mr. Williams, can you tell us what happened to your daughter? What do you think God thinks about this case, sir?

(voice-over): Among the evidence found in the house, a variety of books and videotapes by well known fundamentalist Christian authors Michael and Debby Pearl including a book called "To Train Up A Child".


TUCHMAN: "To Train Up A Child" is a best-selling book, which advocates corporal punishment of children from infant on up. The authors of the book say the writings are guided by the teachings in the bible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Blog Host identifies this as Michael Pearl): It says that if you spare the rod you hate your child. But if you love him you chasten him timely.

TUCHMAN: I interviewed the Pearls this past summer because of a chillingly similar case. Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz are now in prison after pleading guilty to killing their daughter Lydia, also adopted from Africa.

Taken from their home as evidence "To Train Up A Child." Michael Ramsey is the DA who prosecuted the Schatzes.

(on camera): What do you think influenced the Schatzes to beat, terrorize and torment their children?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The book by Mr. Pearl. There's no doubt about that.

TUCHMAN: Let's say a 7-year-old slugs his sister.

MICHAEL PEARL, CO-AUTHOR, "TO TRAIN UP A CHILD": You explain to him that what he's done is violent and that that's not acceptable in society and it's not acceptable in our home. Then I would take him somewhere like into his bedroom and I would tell him I'm going to give him 15 licks.

TUCHMAN: With what?

PEARL: Probably a belt on that big a boy. I'd probably use a belt. It would be handy. I might use a wooden spoon or a piece of like plumbing supply line.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): A plumbing supply line. One of the pieces of evidence Larry Williams gave to sheriff's deputies in Washington State after authorities said he acknowledged he and his wife used it to strike their children.

(on camera): Mrs. Williams, do you like the book "To Train Up A Child"?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have no comment today.

TUCHMAN: Can you tell us what happened to your daughter? Do you still say she killed herself?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No comment today.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Larry and Carrie Williams are out on bond. They have pled not guilty. They've been ordered not to talk to their surviving children who are now in foster homes.

PEARL: I don't use the term hitting.

TUCHMAN (on camera): What's the word?

PEARL: Spanking.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Prosecutors say they have no plans to pursue charges against Michael and Debby Pearl. When I talked to the authors about the death of Lydia Schatz in California, they rejects parents losing control and acting out of anger.

(on camera): So you're not accepting any blame?

PEARL: Absolutely not.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And it's the same sentiment they have regarding the death of Hannah Williams in Washington. The Pearls released a statement on their Facebook page, which says we share in the sadness over the tragic death of Hannah Williams.

What her parents did is diametrically opposed to what is taught in the book "To Train Up A Child." And it continues in part, the alleged presence of the book makes it no more responsible for Hannah's death than the presence of a weight loss book in the home of an overweight person is responsible for their obesity.

[Blog host note:  This is quite different from their response to Lydia, "laughing at critics."]

Larry and Carrie Williams are charged with homicide by abuse and felony assault of one of their other children. The prosecution is just beginning to methodically go through the evidence, and that includes reading "To Train Up A Child" cover to cover.


COOPER: Gary, joins us now. How are the other Williams' kids doing? Do we know?

TUCHMAN: The other seven kids, Anderson, they're doing fine. They are all in foster homes. One of the children just became 18 years old. So it's not clear if he's going to leave the foster home and go on his own.

He can if he wants to. But they've been ordered, the parents not to talk to any these seven kids, for two reasons, one to protect the children from harm.

And two because it's very likely that some of all of these children will testify against their parents and they do not want the parents trying to influence their children's testimony.

COOPER: It's so insidious the idea of kids being abused in the name of God. We've done a number of these stories now in different parts of the country. How big a problem do you think this really is?

TUCHMAN: It is a big problem. We've talked to DAs from coast to coast. District attorneys and they're telling us that it's very common. That being said, polls show that most Americans do support spanking their children.

But most Americans don't bloody their children, don't pummel their children, don't seriously hurt their children. It does say in the bible not to spare the rod, but it doesn't say you should humiliate your children. It doesn't say you should bloody them. It doesn't say you should humiliate them and that's something to keep in mind.

COOPER: Where are Larry and Carrie Williams staying?

TUCHMAN: Well, this is very interesting. They can't be together because they don't want them to talk about their testimony. So Carrie Williams, the wife, is staying in her parents' house.

Larry Williams is staying in the house where his whole family was, where his daughter died. It's very interesting because many of the neighbors. None of them wanted to go on camera because they're scared.

But they were to be, put in a word, very creep out that he's staying in the house and mowing the lawn and they have children in that neighborhood and they know what he's alleged to have done. They're very scared of this man.

COOPER: Interesting, Gary, appreciate the update. Thanks.

Click to read the entire series on the archive.
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