KELSO (AP) — A Superior Court judge convicted a Longview couple on Tuesday of withholding food from two of their five adopted children.
Jeffrey and Rebecca Trebilcock, both 45, starved their then-13-year-old adopted son nearly to death and denied a significant amount of food to his biological sister, Cowlitz County Judge Michael Evans decided. The girl was 12 when she and her adopted siblings were seized by the state last year.
The Daily News reported the couple was convicted of first-degree criminal mistreatment of the boy and third-degree criminal mistreatment of his sister.
They face four to five years in prison at sentencing Aug. 23, prosecutor James Smith said.
The prosecution alleged the couple also denied food to three other adopted girls. However, the judge acquitted the Trebilcocks of those charges, finding there was insufficient evidence to prove criminal mistreatment. All five children are now in foster homes.
The couple declined comment. Throughout the trial, they denied starving any of their children.
Evans heard from nearly 50 witnesses during a two-week trial.
The judge said he believes the couple was reckless and criminally negligent, but did not act in malice.
“I think the Trebilcocks love their children. I don’t think there’s any question of that,” he said.
However, he added the couple, both of whom have struggled with obesity, appear to have developed a “warped” and “twisted” view of food.
The adopted children testified they were not allowed to eat breakfast unless their chores were done and that their parents severely punished them for wetting their beds or other violations of the family rules.
“Food was used as a carrot and also a punishment,” Evans said. “This combination of food and punishment and accidents and disobedience all got wrapped up together.”
When Rebecca Trebilcock took the 13-year-old boy to a pediatrician March 1, 2011, he weighed 49 pounds, about half the weight of a normal 13-year-old, and had hypothermia, severe eczema and an extremely low heart rate.
He was immediately admitted to a Portland hospital. One expert testified the boy’s body had grown a peach-fuzz-like layer of hair to stay warm because it had no fat. He also had four broken ribs. The couple said he fell out of a truck.
“The question is: Why didn’t somebody notice that (the boy) was really hurting?” Evans asked. “Why wasn’t he taken to a doctor to address those issues?”
The boy has gained weight in foster care but will never be normal in size, authorities said.
He testified that his parents forced him to wash his clothes and bedsheets in a bucket if he wet the bed. He said he wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom at night, but the Trebilcocks made him drink his own urine if he relieved himself in a cup in his bedroom. The boy said he was made to stand on the porch in cold weather. If he cried about it, he said Rebecca Trebilcock splashed cold water on him. The boy said he ate dog and goat food for nourishment.
The other adopted children testified to varying degrees of similar treatment.
Authorities have said the couple’s four biological children, most in their late teens, were well-fed.
Defense lawyers Kevin Blondin and Ted Debray said their clients were good parents who gave the children all the food they wanted. The youngsters were underweight because they’d recently had the flu, the lawyers said.