VANCOUVER -- With closing arguments complete, a jury will now decide the fate of a Vancouver couple accused of starving and beating their adopted twins.
Jeffrey and Sandra Weller allegedly imprisoned their adopted twins and also beat and starved the children, who are of Filipino descent. The defendants face several charges, including assault, strangulation and unlawful imprisonment.
Both parents took the stand Thursday morning and claimed the children needed to be broken of a hoarding habit. They denied physically abusing the children and said they tried to help them.
"We had tried to get them in therapy to help with their hoarding issues," Sandra testified in Clark County Superior Court. She said they hoarded junk food and hid it in their dresser.
She also testified that the twins "ate all of the time," including cereal and eggs. Her adopted daughter, Sandra said, suffered from bulimia and another disorder that led her to pull her own hair out.
"Did you ever hit them with a belt or any other object?" one of the attorneys asked Sandra on the witness stand.
"I have PTSD. I am not going to go near that," she replied.
Sandra said her daughter once tried to strangle her brother and the children often hurt each other.
Jeffrey's testimony was much shorter, He denied imposing food restrictions on the twins and said he had never hit them with a stick.
Sandra acknowledged that the kitchen cabinets with food were locked and said that was to prevent the twins from pilfering junk food. Their bedroom doors were locked to keep them from climbing on the roof of the home, she said.
Sandra also testified that she home-schooled the children and said the twins were always included in family activities, along with the couple's four biological children.
Earlier in the trial, the twins, the Weller's biological children, child abuse counselors and a doctor all painted a picture of children beaten, denied food and offered moldy meals. The jury was shown photos of scars blamed on the beatings. A biological sibling said he would try to sneak food to the twins.
The twins were also described by experts as well-below weight percentiles for their age and height; while everyone else in the Weller household looked well-fed and robust.
The twins were 16 when the Wellers were arrested in 2011. All six of the Wellers' children were taken from their home during the investigation and placed in child protective custody.
Jeffery Weller was also accused of making death threats to his adopted daughter while choking her, saying, “Someone is going to kill you and it’s going to be soon,” the child abuse specialist, Dr. Kimberly Copeland, noted.