A West Virginia mom, the father of her children, and her live-in boyfriend each face felony child abuse charges after a “severely malnourished” 2-year-old twin boy was brought to the hospital on Monday with signs of kidney failure.
According to the criminal complaint obtained by Law&Crime, Lylee Gillenwater, 21, Michael Scott Gillenwater, 24, and Brian Douglas Casto, 22, were each living at a residence in Ripley, within Jackson County, when 2-year-old “DG” was deprived of water for days and locked room with his twin brother “ZG” in a room filled with urine and feces.
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department posted on Facebook that prayers were needed when informing the public of the “hell on Earth” circumstances investigators claimed to find in that room. Jackson County Sheriff Ross H. Mellinger said that Lylee Gillenwater was living in the basement of the apartment with Brian Casto — her live-in boyfriend — while Michael Gillenwater — the father of her twin boys — lived upstairs in the house of horrors.
“The Mother, Lylee Gillenwater (Adkins) was present at the home with two other children and her live in Boyfriend and custodian of the children, Brian Casto,” the complaint said, noting that Michael Gillenwater was at the hospital with DG on May 8, the day a search warrant was executed. “Casto would advise the undersigned that he had been living in the home from roughly four weeks and that in that time, he had not seen the boys out of the bedroom for more than 3-5 hours during the weekend.”
Information that Lylee Gillenwater offered up led CPS to remove the remaining children from the home, the complaint added.
A medical professional who evaluated DG at the hospital concluded that the boy “had been without water for a period of days.” Michael Gillenwater allegedly spoke with investigators the next day and “provide[d] enough information to lead investigators to believe that the children were left unattended in the room for days at a time.”
The three adults allegedly used a “padlock-type” device to lock the twins in the bedroom for days at a time, leaving the toddlers inside the room wearing nothing but diapers. The conditions in the room were so “deplorable,” authorities said, that investigators couldn’t move “without stepping in both dry and wet feces.” In addition, Cheerios and ground beef were allegedly found shoved into the doorway.
“Through the initial investigation, a Search Warrant was executed by Members of the Sheriff’s Department and West Virginia State Police at 8 Meadowlark Lane in Ripley, Jackson County, West Virginia. This search would reveal a room inside of the apartment that is what the undersigned believes to be deplorable. The room appeared to only have two small crib style mattresses laying on the floor that were completely soiled with urine and faces. The room was covered in human feces to the point investigators were unable to move about the room without stepping in both dry and wet feces,” the complaint said. “This room had an external lock on the outside of the door which would not allow anyone inside of the room to exit. Two types of food were located in the doorway of the locked room. Cheerios along with ground beef were laying in the doorway as if the boys had pushed the food out of the room. It was determined that DG along with his twin brother ZG were the sole occupants of the room.”
The sheriff, appearing shaken up and angered by the case, said that the “average barnyard animal” would do a better job parenting than these defendants.
“It’s just amazing to me that animals like this still exist,” said Mellinger. “I think it’s fair to say that given the circumstances at hand, the average barnyard animal would probably provide better parental care and nurturing than what these kids were afforded through the three adults living in this home.”
“The neglect had reached such a level that one of the 2-year-olds lost consciousness and was on death’s door when the notification was made to the sheriff’s office,” the sheriff added.
Mellinger said “these boys need lots of prayers right now.” DG in particular, the sheriff said, has “a lot of hurdles to clear medically” before it becomes clear that he will survive.
According to investigators, DG was “severely malnourished” and showed signs of kidney failure at the hospital.
“On or about May 8th, 2023, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department received information from Child Protective Services that a child had been taken to the Jackson General Hospital Emergency Department and that the child had been severely malnourished with signs of kidney failure. Further inquiry would identify the child as a 2-year-old male who is hereafter referred as DG,” the complaint said. “CPS would further advise that based on the Doctors observations, the child’s condition was caused by neglect.”
The sheriff’s department said that each defendant faces charges of child neglect causing serious injury and child neglect creating risk of serious injury. Both of the charged offenses are felonies under §61-8D-4(b) and (c):
b) If a parent, guardian or custodian neglects a child and by such neglect cause the child serious bodily injury, as serious bodily injury is defined in section one, article eight-b of this chapter, then the parent, guardian or custodian is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not less than $300 nor more than $3,000 dollars or imprisoned in a state correctional facility for not less than one nor more than ten years, or both.
(c) If a parent, guardian or custodian grossly neglects a child and by that gross neglect creates a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury, as serious bodily injury is defined in section one, article eight-b of this chapter, of the child then the parent, guardian or custodian is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not less than $1,000 nor more than $3,000 dollars or imprisoned in a state correctional facility for not less than one nor more than five years, or both.
The defendants were booked Tuesday night into the South Central Regional Jail. Bail was set at $150,000 for each individual.
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