VANCOUVER - The trial for the Vancouver couple accused of beating and starving their adopted twins began with emotional testimony Tuesday.
Jeffrey and Sandra Weller face several charges, including assault, strangulation and unlawful imprisonment. They are accused of imprisoning the teen siblings and feeding them meager amounts once a day.
One of the twins took the stand Tuesday. He told jurors that he and his sister were constantly starving and frequently beaten. Prosecutors also showed the jury photos of scars and red marks on his twin sister's back.
"The first few hits would feel like someone jumping on you, like really heavy," the boy testified. "And then it would start to sting a lot."
Biological son testifies against parents
Several people cried in the courtroom Tuesday as the couple's 13-year-old biological son said he tried to help the twins by sneaking food to them. But he said when he got caught, his father punched him in the face and whipped him.
He also described seeing Jeffrey beat the twins with a board until they bled.
"He was swinging [the board] over his shoulder really fast and it was hitting, making a very loud smacking noise... Like he was swinging an ax,” the boy said on the witness stand.
Investigator testifies about 'starving kids'
A Washington state investigator was first to take the stand Tuesday morning and described the night she responded to the Weller's home. Kim Karu said the teenage girl was shaking when she spoke and seemed scared. She also said that both the girl and her brother were emaciated and looked as if they were literally starving.
Karu works for the Department of Social and Health Services. She described walking into the home and noticing a lock on the fridge. She also said that the twins’ bedroom did not have electricity or a mattress to sleep on. Karu said the bedroom door did not have a handle on the inside, either.
The officer who initially interviewed the couple said they blamed the locks and filthy conditions on the children, and said the kids were skinny because they were Filipino.
The Wellers also had four of their biological children living with them at the time. Karu described those kids as "chubby, well dressed and healthy."
The twins were 16 when the Wellers were arrested in 2011. All 6 of the Weller's children were taken from their home during the investigation and placed in child protective custody.
State files show, starting in September of 2004, Child Protective Services got eight referrals about the twins. Complaints included worries over their low weight, being left home alone, medical neglect and fears of physical abuse.
The twins first denied the abuse but eventually, changes in the investigation system revealed conditions that prosecutors described as "torturous."
The teens told detectives that they were very hungry and would sometimes steal food. When they got caught, they said they were severely punished, including being both forced to lay on the kitchen floor with no pants or underwear while being struck repeatedly on the buttocks with a wooden spoon, often resulting in bleeding.
The teens told police the abuse took place on average once a week, and had been going on for several years.