Witness: Adopted children were 'tortured'

by: Lee Stoll Updated:

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MOUNT VERNON, Wash. - A conservative Christian couple on trial for murder and abuse heard their home described as a place of torture.

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Larry and Carri Williams face two charges in the death of their adopted daughter, Hana -- manslaughter and homicide by abuse. The second charge is harder to prove.

John Hutson, a law school professor and dean, who testified before Congress about military prisoner abuse, told jurors Hana and her adopted brother Immanuel were beaten with rods.

 "In my judgment, it's not a close case.  They both were unquestionably tortured," said Hutson.

 Huston says the Ethiopian orphans were fed frozen food, slept in a closet and used a portable toilet in the yard at the couple’s gated home.   

 "People who endure torture become worn down," said Hutson.

 Hana, seen in a video as a healthy girl in 2007, died of hypothermia and starvation in 2011.

A photo taken at the home Hana shared with the Williams and their seven children shows the thin teen with the braids she loved shaved off.

 "It's a demonstration of power, control, authority," said Hutson.

But the defense argued Hana’s head was shaved to treat lice and no one quoted in Hutson’s report said the children were abused.

 Rachel Forde, Larry Williams’ attorney asked, "Not a single person who actually saw these spankings described them as beatings, correct?"

"Right," said Hutson.

 The couple, who could face life in prison, admit they were strict -- even excessive.

Oscar Overlund, one of many people in the Ethiopian community following the case in court, says torture is the right term.

 “Just because you can attempt to dispute one (element), it doesn't take away from the whole picture," said Overlund.