Thursday, June 9, 2022: FAYETTEVILLE, WV (WVNS) — Raylee Browning’s mother and two family members of the women accused of causing 8-year-old Raylee’s death on Dec. 26, 2018, testified before Fayette County Circuit Court Judge Paul Blake on Thursday.
Raylee’s father, Marty Browning Jr, his wife, Julie, and Julie’s sister, Sherie Titchenell, are each charged with abuse and neglect resulting in death and death of a child by a parent, guardian, or custodian.
Julie’s daughter, now 15, testified that she and her two half-siblings, along with Raylee, lived in Nicholas County in 2015 and 2016. She and Raylee attended Mount Lookout Elementary School.
The girl said that Raylee was “just there” in the household and that she did not interact with her very often. Raylee was often “in trouble” with Sherie, who is the teen’s biological niece, she told Special Prosecutor Brian Parsons. The teen testified that Sherie struck Raylee with her hands and objects and pushed her, once pushing her into a cat litter box that was in the hallway.
“It seems as if she was always being punished, even if she hadn’t done anything to deserve so,” said the daughter.
Raylee spent most of her daytime hours in the hallway, with Sherie forcing her to “walk” the hallway from the time the little girl got up until she went to bed, according to the teen.
Raylee was denied food, the girl testified.
“There would be days she would go hungry,” the girl testified.
She added that Sherie slept in a bedroom with Raylee at night, with Raylee sleeping on a mattress on the floor and sometimes being forced to wear Pull-up diapers.
“At some point, she had learned she could leave her room at night when Sherie was sleeping and go to the kitchen to eat,” testified the teen.
The adults then put an alarm and lock on the bedroom door so that Raylee could not get food at night, the girl testified. They also directed her teachers not to feed her at school, according to previous testimony.
The teen testified she once walked past a bathroom and briefly glanced inside to see Raylee drinking water from the toilet after the adults refused to give her water.
She testified that in September 2016, when Raylee was around 6, she heard a “loud bang” from a room where Raylee and Sherie were alone and that Raylee stayed in her room until the following day.
“She refused to stand or walk on her own and she looked, I would say, more upset than usual,” she said, describing when Raylee left the room. The daughter said Sherie told her, “Suck it up, buttercup.”
She testified the adults took Raylee to the hospital the day after the injury and that Sherie told her Raylee had broken her leg by kicking the wall.
She reported Sherie told her to lie to CPS workers, usually in the mornings before she went to school. She said she could not recall Marty or Julie being present when Sherie told her to lie.
When Parsons asked her if she was afraid to tell the truth, she replied, “I wouldn’t say I was afraid (to tell the truth).
“I just didn’t think I had to.”
She said the adults withdrew the two girls from school. A homeschool parent, Lynnaea Castle, and her children joined Sherie in giving lessons to their children.
She said Raylee became ill three or four days before Christmas 2018. The girl said she did not see anyone take Raylee food, water, or medicine to the mattress in Sherie’s room, where Raylee was staying. She said Sherie accused Raylee of “faking” the sickness.
Around Christmas Eve, Raylee’s breathing worsened, said the teen.
“When she breathed, it sound liked she was snoring, you know, like when a pug breathes?” The girl testified. “She was fighting for her air like she was snoring.”
She could not recall Marty interacting with his daughter about the hospital, the girl testified.
“I remember Julie asking who was going to take her and in what vehicle, but I don’t remember anything else,” she said.
She said Julie asked Raylee if she would be OK spending Christmas in a hospital. Raylee said that she was and that she wanted to go to a hospital, the girl said, but nobody took her for help.
She testified she saw Sherie carrying Raylee to an ambulance on Dec. 26, 2018.
The teen began to cry under cross-examination by Mark Plants, Julie’s attorney, shortly after Plants took note of her appearance and that she has won beauty pageant titles.
Julie had entered the girl in beauty pageants when she lived in Mount Lookout.
Angela Young of Montgomery, Ala., testified remotely. Young, the sister of Julie and Sherie, alleged that Julie and others had asked her to testify that Raylee had been healthy on Dec. 25, 2018.
“There have been several incidents where I have had people telling me to say I was with them in the house on Christmas Day or say that I at least Face Timed the kids on Christmas Day,” said Young.
“Wanting you to say you saw Raylee fine as a fiddle on Christmas day?” Parsons asked.
“Yes, sir, and I can’t testify to that, because I did not see her,” she replied.
Raylee’s mother, Janice Wriston of Fayette County, told the courtroom that she had last seen her daughter alive in June 2017. She said she remembered when Raylee was born.
“The first time I held her in my arms, her hair flamed in the sunlight,” said Wriston. “Her first time opening her eyes, I got to be the first person that she seen.”
“It was the day I named her my sunshine. She was the brightest thing in this world.”
Thursday, June 9, 2022, Fayetteville, WV — (WVNS) — The teacher of 8-year-old Raylee Browning testified Thursday as a witness against Raylee’s father and two women who are on trial for allegedly causing her death.
Marty Browning Jr., his wife Julie Browning, and Julie’s sister, Sherie Titchenell, are each charged with death of a child by a parent, guardian, or custodian and child abuse or neglect resulting in death.
Raylee was pronounced dead at Plateau Medical Center on Dec. 26, 2018, after Sherie called an ambulance. Emergency room doctors and nurses testified she showed signs of abuse.
Raylee’s gym teacher, Carrie Ciliberti, testified that she taught her at Mount Lookout Elementary School when the family lived in Nicholas County. She also taught Julie’s daughter, who was older and in a higher grade in 2016-2016. The family moved to Oak Hill in 2018.
“She was a very normal, happy, happy-go-lucky, fun-loving child,” said Cilliberti. “I saw Raylee every day. I had breakfast duty, so the days that I saw her at breakfast, that was 10 minutes.
“I had her in either gym, health, or art class for 40 minutes and I Had lunch duty with Raylee’s class so that was another 30 minutes.”
Cilliberti testified that she never saw signs of bad behavior or self-harm from Raylee.
“When she was with me, in my class, if we were in a classroom setting, she was a normal, everyday student, sat there like everyone else.
“If we were outside or in the gym, she liked to be close to me. She was clingy. She wanted adult attention.”
“Typically, she refrained from playing with her peers a lot. She wanted to be with an adult a lot. That is not typical,” Cilliberti testified.
Sherie brought Raylee and Julie’s older daughter to school, and Cilliberti understood that her mother lived out of the district.
Cilliberti said that while Raylee walked laps as part of her gym class.
“I understand that she lived with her father and his girlfriend and her sister and she would visit her mother on certain weekends,” said Cilliberti. “One particular day she told me that would no longer be allowed to see her mother, that mommy didn’t want to see her anymore, mom didn’t love her, mommy was having a new baby to replace her.”
Cilliberti said she did not ask Raylee what she meant.
“She was already upset enough,” she added.
Cliliberti said Raylee did not share any more information about her home life during kindergarten.
She testified that she made referrals to Child Protective Services.
In September 2015, during Raylee’s kindergarten year, Raylee suffered a broken femur. One of the three adults called the school and reported that Raylee had an alleged temper tantrum and kicked the wall, causing the break.
Cilliberti, as a mandatory reporter, said she contacted Nicholas Child Protective Services.
“A broken femur is a significant injury. It’s not a common injury,” she said, explaining her reason for reporting the broken leg. “And the explanation for the injury did not fit the injury.”
She said she “had no idea” of what came of the referral. She said Nicholas CPS did not contact her to learn more information.
She testified that at the end of the school day during parent pick-up, Raylee asked to stay at the school.
“She would hang on me. She would put her arms around my waist and lock her legs around my legs,” said Ciliberti, becoming emotional “(And she) would say, ‘I love you. Could you be my mommy?’
“It was obvious she wanted to stay at school.”
Parsons asked Cilliberti about Raylee’s eating habits at school.
She testified Raylee was offered lunch and breakfast every day at the school.
“At one point, we had, I personally did not but someone in the school did have to check her blood for her blood sugar and if it dropped, she was to have a snack.”
Previously, Dr. Michele Staton testified that she made the order, under the information provided by the caregivers. Cilliberti said Sherie told teachers Raylee was not allowed to have breakfast.
“We were told that Raylee had an eating disorder and that she would be fed at home,” the teacher testified.”
Julie’s daughter, Sherie’s biological niece, was still eating breakfast at school, said Ciliberti.
“Raylee never came out and said, “I’m hungry,’” said Ciliberti. “She would say her belly hurt and ask to go to the restroom.”
She said that teachers could see she was hungry and was afraid to ask for food. Teachers started to feed her during bathroom breaks, according to Ciliberti.
She said she saw no signs Raylee was throwing up at school and saw no signs of an eating disorder.
“All I saw was a hungry little girl,” she added.
“I have never seen an elementary child with an eating disorder.”
She said Raylee ate everything but tomatoes. She cried when recalling Raylee’s eating habits.
“If we had something like mashed potatoes and gravy she would like her tray. She would lick her tray, eat every bite,” said Cilliberti.
Cilliberti said she had seen a handwritten note and that a school nurse had told her that a pediatrician had ordered that Raylee did not need extra snacks, since the caregivers had reported the girl had an eating disorder.
When shown a note by Sherie’s attorney during cross-examination, she said she did not recognize the note and that she had seen a different note.
Cilliberti said Raylee’s clothes were small and tight in Kindergarten and were not appropriate for the temperature.
“Often, she would wear in August, when it’s 90 degrees, long pants, and long sleeves,” she testified. “One of the things that you look for in child abuse is inappropriate clothing to cover injuries.”
On a particularly hot day, she said, she gave Raylee a T-shirt so she could take off a pink sweatshirt she often wore.
She said she witnessed marks on Raylee’s body, including bruising.
Raylee later returned the clothes and said that her dad had told her that the teacher could not give her clothing to wear.
When Raylee returned to first grade, Raylee had lost weight.
“She had black circles around her eyes. Her eyes were sunken in. Her cheekbones were sticking out. She was pale.
“She was not healthy looking, at all,” testified Cilliberti, becoming emotional.
In November of Raylee’s first-grade year, said the teacher, Raylee was withdrawn for homeschool.
Teachers do not oversee homeschool students, she said.
Cilliberti said a CPS worker once sat in during an interview with children from the Titchenell-Browning home but that she was not interviewed.
“I told the board superintendent that if Raylee was allowed to be withdrawn and homeschooled, that she would die,” said Cilliberti.
Later in the day, homeschool mom Lynnae Castle took the stand to testify for the defense. Julie’s daughter reported that Castle and Sherie homeschooled Raylee and other children together and that Julie’s three children were taken to Castle’s home after an ambulance took away Raylee on Dec. 26, 2018.
Ciliberti, however, said she believes Raylee was an abused child. Under cross-examination by Sherie’s attorney, Evan Dove, Cilliberti said she was not well-versed in the procedures that are in place for homeschooled children.
Ciliberti’s testimony suggested that CPS files did not contain accurate information. A CPS worker had erroneously identified Ciliberti as a school counselor, according to statements in the courtroom.
CPS workers did not find evidence of abuse, but Ciliberti testified she made multiple CPS referrals. Other teachers also made reports to CPS. She stated that she “completely disagreed” with CPS workers’ assessment of Raylee’s case.
In a question to Cilliberti, Mancini suggested Marty Jr. was frustrated by the repeated referrals to CPS and that he had told teachers to call him instead.
Blake sustained an objection to the question by Parsons, so Cilliberti did not answer.
OHPD forensic investigator Mason Hines testified about crime scene evidence. He noted that an alarm and a lock were on the door where Raylee slept.
Hines ordered testing for a mattress and other objects in the room. He testified that a sexual assault kit showed no DNA.
Wednesday, June 8, 2022 update: Fayetteville, WV (WVNS)– West Virginia Chief Medical Examiner Allen Mock said he could not determine if 8-year-old Raylee Browning died as a result of homicide or natural causes, so he listed her manner of death as “undetermined.”
Mock made the statement during the third day of trial for Raylee’s father, Marty Browning Jr, his wife, Julie Titchenell Browning, and Julie’s sister, Sherie Browning. All are charged with child neglect or abuse resulting in death and death of a child by a parent, guardian, or custodian. Raylee was pronounced dead at Plateau Medical Center on Dec. 26, 2018, after an ambulance brought her to the hospital, without a caregiver present.
Ambulance drivers testified that Sherie handed over Raylee to them and that the child was blue, cold, and unresponsive. Nurses and an emergency room doctor testified Tuesday that there was no evidence Raylee was alive when she was brought to the hospital. Dr. Dilip Ghodasara pronounced her dead at 12:27 p.m., after her 11:55 a.m. admission.
Mock testified Wednesday that Raylee was on an alarming number of psychiatric medications for an 8-year-old but testified the medicines would not have caused pneumonia or the symptoms Raylee would have experienced.
Mock said he reviewed Raylee’s autopsy records and investigators’ findings but did not examine her body.
“She had a very severe necrotizing bronchial pneumonia … an infection to the lung to the point the tissue is actually dying,” said Mock.
“I found that to be the cause of death, likely a period of sepsis before death where the lung infection spread into the blood,” he added
He said Raylee would have been, “ill, just very ill,” and that she had a fever and would have felt sick over a period of days. The lung tissue showed the beginning of fibrosis, or scar tissue, which takes a few days.
“The tissue destruction I described..that also takes in a period of days,” he said. “This particular pneumonia developed over a period of days.”
He said that Raylee could have been sick before pneumonia developed, but the pneumonia itself would have developed over a period of days.
“You would see shortness of breath, maybe even to the point of gasping,” he said. “The reaction from the body, the defensive reaction, can cause a disruption in our coagulating and you can start to see (a red-purple rash on the skin).”
He said she would have had an “ashen” appearance and “possibly a high fever.”
Parsons asked if a normal, reasonable parent would have noticed the child was sick.
“Any lay person would’ve recognized the child was very ill,” said Mock.
Aggressive antibiotic therapy and other treatments, up to mechanical ventilation, could have saved Raylee’s life, said Mock.
He said that a walk-in clinic or physician would have been able to treat Raylee if her caregivers had sought help for her.
Mock said dehydration and malnutrition would have made a patient more vulnerable to sepsis.
He noted that she was on an “alarming” number of psychiatric medications but said the drugs would not have prevented adults from seeing that she was ill.
“These medications would not have masked any symptoms form the pneumonia,” he said.
Parsons asked about how long it would take a body temperature to drop after death.
Mock said he could not offer an explanation.
“This child was below the fifth percentile for weight,” he added. “So this is a very small, vulnerable, sick child.”
“That core temperature is not compatible with life, without very aggressive measures.”
He added that dehydration and malnourishment would make a patient more vulnerable to sepsis.
Under cross-examination, he said the body could change color within 45 minutes of death.
Judge Blake asked Mock if the body would look different when photographed by Plateau Medical Center doctors than when it would arrive in Charleston. Mock said that it would change appearance.
Mock noted that Raylee was on seven strong psychiatric medications. He called them “an alarming number” of medicines but said they would not have masked the severe symptoms of pneumonia and sepsis, prior to her death.
He also testified it is likely that Raylee’s caregivers had provided information to her psychiatrist, which resulted in the prescriptions. The information contradicted reports by her teachers.
“Most telling to me are reports from the schools because the schools are independent and they can make observations,” said Mock. “When the school denies any disruptive behavior, it makes me question that diagnosis and the veracity of the parents’ accounts.”
He pointed out that the caregivers had reported to Raylee’s psychiatrist that she was binge eating, but she was underweight.
A second expert, Dr. Joan Phillips, testified that Raylee’s records show she was the victim of medical abuse, which is when a caregiver gives false information to a doctor, who then prescribes medication based on the caregiver’s account.
Phillips said she had practiced for 22 years as a pediatrician and had never seen a child Raylee’s age on as many psychiatric drugs.
She said it appeared that Raylee’s caregiver had withheld information from some of the girl’s medical providers and had given false information to others.
Merry Hanning, the retired secretary, and operations manager for Tyree Funeral Home in Oak Hill, testified that none of the defendants’ names appeared on payments to Tyree and that there is still a balance for Raylee’s funeral, which was held on Jan. 12, 2019.
She testified under cross-examination that Highlawn Funeral Home had first had funeral arrangements and had transferred the arrangements to Tyree, at the request of Raylee’s mother, Janice Wriston, and Marty Jr.
Hanning told the judge that a church, a pastor, and a citizen made a donation to pay part of the bill, along with Janice’s family member. Highlawn sent $200 and specified that it was a donation.
Hanning testified that Tyree staff was told that the funeral at Highlawn had been paid in full.
However, Highlawn sent only a $200 check that they said had been made by “donations,” according to Hanning.
Hanning testified that the Fayette Prosecuting Attorney’s Office released the body to Tyree Funeral Home.
Hanning testified under cross-examination that the prosecuting attorney did not tell her that funds were available at Highlawn or that the body was being held at Highlawn.
FAYETTEVILLE, WV (WVNS) — Plateau Medical Center staff had no evidence that Raylee Browning was alive on the morning of Dec. 26, 2018, when she arrived at the emergency department via ambulance, nurses testified Tuesday, June 7, 2022.
Raylee’s father, Marty Browning Jr, his wife, Julie Titchenell Browning, and Julie’s sister, Sherie Titchenell, are on trial for one charge each of child neglect causing death and death of a child by a parent, guardian or custodian.
Medical workers testified they could not find a pulse, and monitors showed Raylee’s heart was not beating.
Nurses also testified the 8-year-old had multiple scabs and bruising on her body. Her leg also reportedly showed a burn mark.
Special prosecutor Brian Parsons asked the nurse to identify photographs. It was said the photos were taken of Raylee’s body by medical staff at Plateau. Parsons showed the photographs of Raylee on a monitor to jurors and the gallery. The little girl had extreme bruising on her body, along with scabs. She had bruises on her bottom and leg, pick marks, abrasions, and scabs.
A second medical worker testified that Julie Titchenell arrived at the hospital prior to Marty Browning Jr.’s arrival. She testified that Browning Jr. appeared “rattled” and said under cross examination by his attorney, Steve Mancini, that he appeared “upset.”
The nurse continued to testify that Julie did not appear upset and asked how long the procedures usually take, after she learned Raylee was dead.
According to court testimony, medical workers attempted to save Raylee’s life for 35 minutes, before pronouncing her dead at 11:55 AM on December 26, 2018.
The ER doctor who was working the morning of Raylee’s death testified that Raylee had no pulse and was not breathing when she was brought to the emergency room. Her body was cold. He said he placed her on pediatric life support and, while he was trying to revive her, he learned that the family was present.
Julie Titchenell’s attorney, questioned the doctor about whether he had spoken with Julie or Janice Wriston, Raylee’s mother. The doctor said he spoke twice with Julie, but did not speak with Wriston.
“There were two times. The first time was when they came into the ER,” he said. “There was that same person, that I believe I am talking to the child’s mother. It turns out to be the child’s stepmother, and I believe I talked to them twice.”
Under questioning by special prosecutor Brian Parsons and attorneys for the three defendants, the ER doctor said their opinion was that Raylee was a victim of abuse. They testified that the parents were not in the room and that he did not have information that Raylee had been prescribed psychiatric medications.
According to court documents, the ER Doctor said they spoke with a psychiatrist who prescribed strong psychological medications for Raylee, about three years before the girl died. He did not speak with the psychiatrist prior to treating her at the emergency room, he testified.
Court documents also said Marty Browning Jr. told investigators in 2018 that Julie was the one who took Raylee to doctor’s appointments and that he did not know the medicines his daughter was prescribed.
When cross-examined by the prosecutor, the ER Doctor said his opinion had not changed. “My opinion is still the same. There is a possibility of some abuse,” he said.
He continued to adamantly testify that he believed abuse had gone on and that his team administered life-saving treatment “based on protocol” although Raylee showed no sign of life.
Stick with 59News while we provide more updates on the trial.