by: Lee Stoll Updated:
SKAGIT COUNTY, Wash. - Day 21 in Larry and Carri Williams' abuse and murder trial as the judge throws out testimony from one of the state's biggest witnesses.
The defense blasted prosecutors for buying clothes and food for Hana Williams' cousin. Without the cousin's testimony, it's almost impossible for the state to prove an element of their case.
It's been three weeks since Kassaye Woldetsidik was on the stand talking about his cousin, Hana.
"We were close," he said.
Today, jurors were told to forget everything he said.
"It is stricken from the record," said Judge Susan K. Cook.
The jury was not told Woldetsidik missed his flight back to Ethiopia, disappeared and is accused of staying in the U.S. illegally.
They don't know county prosecutor Rich Weyrich bought him jeans, shoes, sent him to the Seattle Center and spent about $100 on food.
"We can't send our witnesses on field trips to Seattle with a paid chauffeur," said Larry Williams' attorney, Cassie Trueblood.
Weyrich's co-counsel says the money was spent after Woldetsidik testified.
"It was not provided as inducement to testify," said prosecutor Rosemary Kaholakula.
Woldetsidik was a critical witness in the case against Hana's adopted parents.
The girl starved and froze to death at their gated Sedro-Woolley home two years ago.
The couple's adopted son Immanuel says the Ethiopian pair were beaten, locked in closets and fed frozen food as punishment for misbehaving.
The Williams couple are charged with manslaughter, homicide by abuse and assault.
Homicide by abuse can only be charged if a victim is a child 16 or younger.
Doctors who tested Hana's teeth and bones say she was anywhere between 13 and 18 years old.
Woldetsidik testified a family Bible entry recording her birth proves she was 13.
Judge Cook says it's impossible to know if that testimony was influenced by gifts.
"I think that it was inappropriate," said Cook.
The defense also asked for the homicide by abuse charge to be dismissed but the judge said no. If jurors dismiss it in deliberations, the Williams couple could still face life in prison on the other charges.