LONGVIEW, Wash. – A couple convicted of starving their adopted children learned they will spend years in prison after a judge handed down their sentences Thursday.
Rebecca Trebilcock was sentenced to 8.5 years in prison and her husband received a 5.5-year prison sentence.
The amount of time the couple will spend in prison was more than victim advocates were expecting.
The judge said Rebecca received the longer sentence because she was with the children more often and had more time to make observations.
Before the sentences were handed down, child advocates asked the judge to make sure the children knew they'd been heard.
"The damage (to the children) is lifelong and that it is significant. They have the right to have been heard by the court."
But the judge also heard from a dozen of the Trebilcocks' friends. Those friends described a couple with high morals and kind hearts.
The couple was emotional through the two-and-a-half hour sentencing hearing even making emotional comments themselves before learning their fates.
"We gave them hope to all of them, broken hearts and souls, your honor, I miss – I miss all my children very much," said Jeff Trebilcock.
Rebecca Trebilcock said she was proud of all of her children.
"When they were taken away from us, the sun of my life went out. It has never come back," she said.
The judge said it didn't matter that the Trebilcocks were first-time offenders because the children suffered for years.
One of the abused children was in court Thursday. He didn't want to talk in front of the judge but all of the children wrote the judge statements to be used in the decision.
The Trebilcocks were both found guilty of first and third degree criminal mistreatment Tuesday, July 31. The first-degree convictions were felonies. The couple was found not guilty of several lesser misdemeanor charges.
The couple was arrested in May 2011 after a two-month investigation by the Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office revealed there were several severely neglected children in the household who were starving.
The couple's then 13-year-old adopted boy was in the worst shaped and had to be treated at a Portland hospital for several broken ribs, severe malnutrition, hypothermia and other ailments.
The other adoptive children, all girls, were also found to be underweight and neglected, according to the sheriff’s office.
Cowlitz County authorities said the couple kept food locked up inside their west Longview home, starving the five adoptive children while their biological children were well fed.
They said a motion sensor and gate inside the home were part of that plan.
Both Rebecca and Jeff took the stand to testify in their own defense during the trial and said the motion sensor was to keep their adoptive boy from wandering their home at night.
Rebecca testified that the boy displayed odd behavior and didn't always tell the truth. She also said her religious beliefs inspired her to adopt a mostly vegetarian lifestyle for her family and admitted she traveled to Mexico for weight-loss surgery.