A judge on Tuesday allowed a 16-year-old boy to return to the Longview home of his parents, who are accused of starving and abusing their five adopted children.
The decision came despite new accusations that Jeffrey and Rebecca Trebilcock also abused their four biological boys, allegations the boys rejected in court Tuesday.
Investigators said last week that the Trebilcocks' biological children are average size or overweight, and there was no indication they were abused. However, during a hearing in Cowlitz County Juvenile Court, social workers and state attorneys said they've learned more.
They accused the Trebilcocks of tying one of their biological sons to a chair to get him to finish his homework and forcing at least one of the boys to sleep in their barn, an allegation that was made last week by one of the Trebilcocks' neighbors.
Superior Court Judge Stephen Warning said there is no hard evidence that the 16-year-old would be harmed if he continued living with his parents, so he allowed the boy to move back into the Trebilcocks' rural home west of Longview. The Daily News is withholding the names of all of the minors involved with the case.
The 16-year-old testified Tuesday that he wasn't worried that he would be harmed in his parents' home.
Asked by the state's attorneys how he feels living under the Trebilcocks' roof, he said: "I've been fine. Just wanting my sisters to come home."
Jeffrey Trebilcock, who bailed out of jail with his wife Friday, broke down in tears as he hugged his 16-year-old son following the ruling. Later, the Trebilcocks and their biological sons — ages 16 to 24 — embraced and talked in the parking lot of the Juvenile Center in Longview.
Sheriff's investigators say the Trebilcocks, both 44, rigged up an alarm in their kitchen to keep their adopted children from "stealing food." The adopted children — four girls and a boy between the ages of 8 and 13 — were malnourished and alarmingly underweight when they were taken into protective custody in March, authorities said.
Deputies arrested the Trebilcocks on Thursday on suspicion of first-degree criminal mistreatment, third-degree assault and four counts of second-degree criminal mistreatment. The Trebilcocks' youngest and only minor son had been living with his 24-year-old brother under a law enforcement order since Thursday's arrests.
Jeffrey and Rebecca Trebilcock listened quietly in court Tuesday as their boys testified and denied that their parents ever abused them or their younger, adopted siblings.
Dillon Trebilcock, 18, who still lives with his parents, called the abuse allegations "absurd." Asked if he or any of his siblings were ever tied to a chair, he said: "Absolutely not."
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Brandon Trebilcock, 22, who also still lives with his parents, said he is an excellent baker who has won awards for his pastries at fairs. His adopted sisters helped him deliver pastries to neighbors, he said, and one sister liked to help in the kitchen.
"She looked up to me," Brandon Trebilcock said.
Attorney Kurt Anagnostou, who is fighting to help the Trebilcocks get their children back, said the his clients' 13-year-old adopted son lied to investigators about the abuse.
"The government has just gone way too far. The government's gone too far," declared Anagnostou, who is Longview's mayor. "My clients' family is in crisis. They are absolutely in crisis."
Investigators said the parents starved the adopted kids so badly they resorted to eating dog and goat food as well as toothpaste and dandelion leaves. Investigators also said the Trebilcocks beat their adopted children with a paddle or forced them to stand on the porch and doused them with water if they caught them taking food.
The 13-year-old adopted boy was the most malnourished of his siblings, according to court documents. He weighed just 49 pounds — less than half the normal weight of a 13-year-old. Investigators said the boy, who also had several broken ribs in various states of healing, has gained at least 25 pounds and grown an inch since he was placed in a foster home in early March.
The other adopted siblings, including three girls from Haiti, have similarly gained weight since they've been placed in protective custody in March, court documents said.
Attorney Tierra Busby, who represented the 16-year-old boy in his bid to rejoin his parents, suggested Tuesday that the adopted girls were underweight because "they are from another country where they were in an orphanage and malnourished." (Authorities have not said how long the three girls have been in the United States.)
Attorneys for the state argued that the 16-year-old was exposed to the alleged abuse or the victim of it himself. Returning to his parents' home would put him at risk, they argued.
"It's hard to imagine that, with what's happened to these five (adopted) children, the ... older children were not victimized also," said attorney Eleanor Couto, who represents Cowlitz County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), which is involved in the case.
Tina Day, a CASA supervisor for said the 16-year-old boy, like his brothers, had been home-schooled and has "led such a sheltered life."
He's "a bright kid. He's shy. He's very confused and concerned about what's happening with his family," Day said.