Murder charge may be thrown out because adopted girl's age

by: Lee Stoll Updated:

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SKAGIT COUNTY, WASH. —

Friday marked the 11th day in the Skagit murder and abuse trial, and the cousin of an adopted girl who died said she was barely a teenager when she died.

Hana Williams died of hypothermia and starvation at her adopted parents’ home two years ago.

Prosecutors charged the couple, but one charge could be thrown out because of Hana’s age.

Kassaye Woldetsidik, who flew from Ethiopia to testify, said his cousin Hana was a healthy young girl.  She was surrounded by her family for her 4th birthday.

"This picture was taken at a celebration of Hana's birthday," said Woldetsidik, through an interpreter.

He last saw his cousin shortly before she left the orphanage, where she lived after her mother abandoned her.  The rest of the family could not afford to raise her.

An entry in the family Bible was kept to show when she was born.

"I was watching her always.  We were close," said Woldetsidik.

Prosecutors say that entry meant Hana was 13 years old when she died at the gated Sedro-Woolley home she shared with Larry and Carri Williams, their seven children and an Ehiopian boy named Immanuel.

Immanuel testified he and his adopted sister were beaten, fed frozen food and forced to sleep in closets.

The Williams are charged with homicide by abuse, manslaughter and assault, but homicide by abuse only counts if the victim is a child, 16 years old or younger.

Gary Bell, a forensic dentist, looked at Hana’s teeth when her body was exhumed last fall.

"My opinion is that she's at least 15 years old,” Bell said.

Several other tests put her between 13 and 18 years old.

Her cousin wasn’t questioned about science. He just remembers being there when she was brought home from the hospital.

“I knew the day she was born.  My sisters also remember that day,” said Woldetsidik.

If the jury throws out the homicide by abuse charge, the Williams could still face decades in prison if convicted of manslaughter and assault.