FAYETTEVILLE, WV (WVNS) — The trial for three adults who are accused of causing the 2018 death of an 8-year-old Oak Hill girl opened in Fayette County Circuit Court Monday.
Raylee’s father, Marty Browning, his wife, Julie Browning, and Julie’s sister, Sherie Titchenell, are each charged with death of a child by a parent or guardian and child neglect resulting in death, both felonies.
All of them were living on Park Street in Oak Hill with Raylee and Julie’s children when Raylee was taken to Plateau Medical Center and died on the day after Christmas in 2018.
The State Medical Examiner says Raylee died of an infection related to pneumonia, but did not determine the exact manner of death. A pathologist for the defense reviewed the same file and is expected to testify that Raylee died of natural causes.
The first day of the trial was reserved for jury selection.
Special prosecutor Brian Parsons and the three court-appointed defense attorneys spent the morning interviewing potential jurors. Because of high publicity surrounding the child’s death, Parsons had reported in a pre-trial hearing last week that jury selection was expected to be a slow process.
Attorneys are expected to make their opening arguments on Tuesday before Fayette Circuit Court Judge Paul Blake.
Witnesses for the state are expected to testify that Raylee was starved and abused by the three adults when the group lived in Nicholas County and Oak Hill and that Nicholas Child Protective Services failed to protect Raylee, despite reports from her teachers, her mother and others.
The three defendants have opted to be tried together, rather than each having a trial. Each has a court-appointed defense attorney who ensures that each defendant’s Constitutional right to a fair trial is upheld.
Parsons was appointed special prosecutor in 2020, after the original assistant prosecutor resigned and the current Fayette prosecutor immediately recused himself when taking office, due to a conflict of interest. The prosecutor, Anthony Ciliberti, is married to Raylee’s gym teacher, who had reported the alleged abuse to Nicholas CPS.
Teachers are mandatory reporters of abuse.
Parsons had offered plea deals to Marty and Julie, but neither accepted. He did not offer a plea deal to Titchenell.
59 News will continue coverage of the trial, as it unfolds.