LONGVIEW, Wash. – A Longview couple accused of starving their five adopted children and leaving some of them to eat food meant for the family pets appeared in court Friday afternoon.
The oldest adopted child, a 13-year-old boy, was far worse off than the other children. According to court documents, it appears the mistreatment goes back at least three years when he was severely underweight and short for his age. At one point he weighed 49 pounds and was in such bad shape his body temperature was 10 degrees below normal.
The boy has now been diagnosed with psychosocial dwarfism. That’s severe growth impairment as a response to severe environment stress. A doctor estimates the boy will be "10 inches shorter than he would have been."
Authorities say a doctor warned the family in 2008 the boy’s condition could be life-threatening.
The children ate dog food, goat food and dandelion leaves to get by, and they told investigators of being spanked with a board and being doused with water and made to stand outside.
Rebecca Trebilcock was the first of the two parents to go before a judge. He ordered her to stay away from the five kids if she ends up posting the $50,000 bail. Her husband, Jeffrey, who works for the Longview School District in the warehouse/delivery department, got the same treatment.
The couple later posted bail and were released from jail.
The Trebilcocks also raised four biological kids in their home.
Court records say both Trebilcocks are overweight, especially Jeff.
Inside the family’s home west of Longview records say the parents put an "alarm in the kitchen so food could not be taken out and consumed." So the children resorted to "stealing dog food … goat food … took toothpaste to eat because of hunger."
Additionally, the 13-year-old was suffering from "hypothermia … slow heart beat … wasting syndrome" – which means – a "loss of weight, muscle atrophy (and) fatigue" and he had "4 ribs … broken … in several stages of healing."
Three years ago, when the boy was about 10, the Trebilcocks took him to see Dr. Blaine Tolby. According to court records, Tolby said the boy was the height of a 6-year-old and the weight of a 5-year-old.
Tolby told KATU News Friday the parents gave him multiple reasons for the boy’s condition. He said he gave them a plan for making him better. But he said they told him they wouldn’t follow the plan because of their personal beliefs.
The couple’s personal beliefs are unknown and one of the Trebilcocks’ biological children – an adult who was in the courtroom – declined to comment. Other supporters of the couple in the courtroom also declined to comment.
A neighbor of the Trebilcocks defended the couple Thursday night and said the couple was being falsely accused by the 13-year-old who was fabricating the story.
"It’s just totally wrong," said Warren Bertold. "And social services and the police need to get their act together and find out exactly what the truth is so these people can get back to their business. . . . These people are wonderful people. They’re terrific, Christian people. They have rescued these kids. Four of these kids, they rescued from Haiti."
But Cowlitz County prosecutor, Sue Baur, said the evidence is clear.
"I don’t know who they are or where they’re coming from," she said. "It’s pretty clear" the children were mistreated.
A coworker of Jeff Trebilcock, who said he’s best friends with Trebilcock, said the man described in the news is not the man he knows and Trebilcock talked about his children all the time.
District administrators say Trebilcock mentioned home-schooling his children. But when they became aware of the allegations, they immediately checked to see if the kids were in school there. They found the children weren't. They were being home-schooled.
"Because we’re concerned about kids, we wanted to make sure that we hadn’t missed anything as responsible school district people," said Sandy Catt with the Longview School District. "We care deeply about the welfare of all children, and so anytime there’s any sort of report of suspicion of the well-being of our children, we’re very concerned."
All five children are now in protective custody.
The Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office began an investigation in March after it was notified by Washington State Children Protective Services about the 13-year-old boy’s condition and injuries that were being treated at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.
The hospital informed protective services about the boy’s condition and the agency confirmed Friday that it then informed police.
The boy was placed in protective custody the first week of March and the other children were placed there as well the next week.
Officials with Washington State Child Protective Services said the Trebilcocks were previously foster parents and two of the five adopted children were their foster children. They adopted those two children, who were from the area, in 2004. The state then told the Trebilcocks that they had too many kids in their home.
Then the Trebilcocks went outside of state government to an unknown agency and adopted three children from Haiti.
KATU News reporter Bob Heye contributed to this report.