Marijuana may grow by doghouse, police say


By CHRIS GRIER The Virginian-Pilot
2000, The Virginian-Pilot

CHESAPEAKE -- Jennifer Williams, accused with her husband, Christian Williams, of forcing his daughter to sleep outside in a bug-infested doghouse, is living at a nearby relative's home while her husband remains jailed.

Meanwhile, Commonwealth's Attorney Randall D. ``Randy'' Smith said Monday that he will send investigators to the couple's Skipjack Lane home to examine what appeared to be a knee-high marijuana plant growing in plain view beside the ramshackle wooden box where police said the girl was forced to sleep.

``If that's true, it really makes you wonder,'' Smith said. ``What kind of parents grow marijuana and make their children sleep in a doghouse?''

Jennifer, 28, and Christian, 32, were arraigned Monday in Chesapeake Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on one count each of felony child abuse and neglect. They face five years in jail if convicted. Christian Williams is due in court again on Sept. 19; no court date was set for his wife.

Police said that the two forced Christian Williams' 7-year-old daughter to sleep in the box as punishment and that several neighbors called officers after hearing her scream early Sunday morning.

Paula Thomas, their next-door neighbor, said she awoke early Sunday to the sound of a girl screaming, ``Daddy!''

``We all rushed outside in our night shirts, our hair all crazy. . . . We couldn't see anything,'' she said. ``None of us had any idea that there could be a girl trapped in there.

``The police officers went around to the back yard through the gate. That's when we found out where she was.

``Louie had it better than that little girl had it,'' Thomas said, gesturing toward her dog.

Police said the ordeal left the girl with bug bites on her leg that appeared to be infected. She and a 10-year-old girl in the house are now in the custody of Child Protective Services. Police were unsure of the 10-year-old's relationship to the couple.

Jennifer Williams, freed on $5,000 bond, returned after her arraignment to a hand-lettered sign tacked up at the entrance to their Waterway Forest subdivision that called her and her husband child abusers.

Neighbors said that Jennifer Williams had moved in with relatives in the same neighborhood. No one answered the door there Monday afternoon.

Neighbors said they knew little about the couple because they kept to themselves. Their children tended not to play with other children, several neighbors said.

Several neighbors said Jennifer Williams moved to Hampton Roads from California. Land records show the couple bought their house in January 1999.

``They were kind of the odd couple on the block,'' said Toby DeBause, in that they didn't socialize much.

From the street, the Williams' home set them apart, too.

Unlike most other houses on the block, the lawn was unmowed. Trash bags were strewn by the curb, including one containing a child's rain-soaked teddy bear. The back yard was choked with weeds.

Seen from a neighbor's yard, the doghouse was a warped, rotting box of particle board nailed together, about chest-high. Inside were a blue jacket and a child's stuffed doll.

What appeared to be a knee-high marijuana plant was growing an arm's length away.

Chesapeake Police spokeswoman Cheryl Sitler did not know if the police who freed the girl Sunday saw the plant. She said the detectives' investigation was ``over and done with.''

Commonwealth's Attorney Smith, however, was upset by that news.

``We take that very seriously,'' he said.

Reach Chris Grier at 446-2643 or cgrier@pilotonline.com

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This Page was created on 17th January, 2001