Father accused of starving adopted children tearfully testifies

Father accused of starving adopted children tearfully testifies »Play Video
Jeff Trebilcock cries during his testimony in a Cowlitz County courtroom. He and his wife, Rebecca, are accused of starving their adopted children.

KELSO, Wash. – A father accused of starving his adopted children tearfully took the stand in his own defense Wednesday in a Cowlitz County courtroom.

Talk about giving up his adoptive children to authorities last year and riding with one to the hospital in Portland – a trip that eventually led to criminal mistreatment charges against him and his wife – was what brought tears to Jeff Trebilcock's eyes during his testimony.

Trebilcock and his wife, Rebecca, were arrested on criminal mistreatment charges in March 2011.

"I told them I wasn't gonna let nothin' happen to them," Trebilcock said about his children. "I felt like a failure now."

Cowlitz County authorities say the couple kept food locked up inside their west Longview, Wash. home, starving their five adoptive children while their biological children were well fed.

They say a motion sensor and gate inside the home were part of that plan. Trebilcock says those were actually to keep their oldest adoptive boy from wandering their home at night.

"We've caught him in our bedroom in the middle of the night when we were sleeping, just standing there staring at us - like four times. ... "(It) kinda freaked (us) out a little bit," he said.

Trebilcock contradicted testimony from his adoptive children last week, who said he withheld food from them as punishment.

Even though his oldest son was 50 pounds underweight when the Trebilcocks were arrested, Jeff Trebilcock said all of his children always had as much food as they wanted. He also said he never put locks on the refrigerator or to the pantry.

Trebilcock admitted he and his wife spanked their children, but he said it was very rare.

Rebecca Trebilcock is expected to testify for the defense Thursday morning.

During a break in Jeff Trebilcock's testimony, the couple embraced at the front of the courtroom silently by themselves for a long time.