Holy hot mess, Batman.
You guys, it takes a lot to render me speechless. I’ve been speaking for a living for the better part of two decades, including making frequent voice recordings, which requires composure and precision. This case had me stammering when I was talking about it yesterday afternoon.
Let’s start with the facts.
On Friday, January 17, 2020 at 11:23 AM, police were summoned to the Cynthiana, Kentucky home where 23-year-old Robert Thomas Webber and 20-year-old Chellsea Vergara Webber live with their children, 19-month-old Leeland Wayne Thomas Webber and 4-month-old RheaLeigh Brandi Dawn Webber. When first responders arrived, tiny RheaLeigh was unconscious. Robert told police the baby had fallen off the bed, hit her head, and stopped breathing. The baby was rushed to Harrison Memorial Hospital, the same hospital where she was born on September 18, 2019; she was soon airlifted to the University of Kentucky Children’s Hospital in critical condition.
Fighting for her life, RheaLeigh, wearing a cervical collar, was put on a ventilator, her little body sprouting with tubes and wires. It’s an image no infant should ever be a part of. Tests revealed that some of RheaLeigh’s injuries had occurred before the incident that prompted the 911 call that morning; she showed a history of brain bleeding, broken ribs, and a skull fracture.
Just remember, this child is four months old. These are not injuries she could in any way have caused by herself. The pain caused by these chronic injuries would have caused severe distress in an infant this young, and she likely would have cried vehemently and often. In other words, there is almost no possibility that either of her parents might have missed the signs that there was something wrong with RheaLeigh.
Other tests were ordered, but they were put on hold until RheaLeigh’s condition was stabilized. After the initial test results came back, Detective Sergeant Justin Jett of the Cynthiana Police Department was called in to investigate. He interviewed medical staff, including doctors and nurses, as well as RheaLeigh’s parents, Robert and Chellsea.
During Robert’s interview, Detective Sergeant Jett says the man admitted to shaking his infant daughter until she stopped crying on multiple occasions. Robert described holding RheaLeigh’s bottom in his hand and holding her hand and shoulders against his arm while he shook her in an effort to put her to sleep.
The arrest warrant describes how, during the incident that resulted in RheaLeigh’s acute injuries, the repeated hitting of the baby’s head left a red mark on Robert’s arm. Can you imagine how violently he had to shake that fragile little girl for her head to leave any sort of mark like that? RheaLeigh is lucky to be alive.
In a statement made to the Cynthiana Democrat, RheaLeigh’s mother, Chellsea, said that after Robert’s interview with police that evening, “he then come back in the ER room with me and my son. He then kissed our son on the forehead and kissed me and told me he loved us and that he was sorry. It then clicked in my head and I seen him handcuffed. I immediately said ‘What did you do?’ He then immediately told me ‘I got frustrated with RheaLeigh picked her up and shook her too hard.’”
Robert was arrested that evening on a charge of first-degree assault and taken to the Fayette County Jail. On Saturday morning, he was transported to the Bourbon County Detention Center, where he is currently being held on a $15,000 bond. On the morning of Thursday, January 23, Robert was arraigned in court, where he entered a plea of not guilty. A public defender was appointed at that time, and his preliminary hearing is scheduled for Monday, January 27.
First-degree assault is a Class D felony for which, if Robert is convicted, he may face a 10 to 20 year prison sentence.
Chellsea’s aunt, Kathy McCord Williams, made a Facebook post on January 18 with a caption about raising awareness of Shaken Baby Syndrome. I don’t know if RheaLeigh met the criteria for this diagnosis, which includes brain swelling, brain bleeding, and retinal bleeding, but it wouldn’t surprise me. I just hope RheaLeigh suffers no permanent injury or disability as a result of her father’s lack of self control.
RayLeigh’s condition has improved significantly since she was initially admitted to the hospital, thank god. During her first night there, she was given a blood transfusion. On January 20, doctors inserted a shunt into the soft spot in her skull to allow the fluid accumulating around her brain to drain into her stomach and pass out of her system that way. She has had two procedures thus far on her head. As of yesterday, her breathing tube and neck brace had been removed, and she was drinking up to five ounces of milk at a time. Now for the best news: RheaLeigh will be released from the hospital on Monday! She and her brother Leeland will be in the care of their Great-Aunt Kathy.
The case seems pretty cut and dried, right? Well, maybe not so much. The more I dig into this case, the more flabbergasted I become. Follow me into the weeds, folks.
First, here’s a thing: In November of 2015, Robert was arrested for conspiracy to commit murder. *record scratch* What?! Yes, it seems that at the tender age of 19, Robert accepted an offer from a juvenile to slit an unnamed individual’s throat for the princely sum of $125. According to the arrest citation, Robert showed the juvenile the butt of a pistol he was carrying and said he would “take care of it.” Evidently, he tried at least twice to locate his intended victim, but no one would divulge the individual’s location, because they knew what his plans were. Just two days after signing on for the job, Robert was arrested at Flat Run Veterans Park, where police found a locking knife with a three-inch blade in his pocket.
In that case, Robert entered a guilty plea, effectively reducing his charge to a misdemeanor charge of unlawful transaction with a minor, on March 1, 2016 and was sentenced to two years in prison, but because of a diversion program approved by the court, he did not have to serve any time.
So… that’s something, huh? Well, here’s another interesting tidbit. On October 5, 2018, Robert Webber and Chellsea Vergara, then unmarried, took part in the recording of an episode of Lauren Lake’s Paternity Court, which is available to watch with an Amazon Prime subscription (season 6, episode 25, for those masochistic enough to put themselves through watching it). During this wholly unnecessary piece of court television schlock, Robert accused Chellsea of cheating on him, lying to him, and falsely leading him to believe that her infant son, Leeland, was his biological child. After nineteen minutes of anticlimactic back and forth, Judge Lauren Lake produced an envelope with the results of their DNA test, which proved that Robert was Leeland’s father after all. Don’t get me started on how pointless this show is or how much of a fame-whore one has to be to volunteer to appear on it. Just get a goddamn DNA test and learn the results in private; you don’t need to appear on television and let the viewers decide how trashy they think you are. Ugh.
Ahem. Anyway. They were, as confirmed by Chellsea, paid for their appearance on Paternity Court.
Just in case you thought this story couldn’t get more fucked up and convoluted, bam — here you go! RheaLeigh’s mother, Chellsea, is also under investigation. For the first several days after her husband’s arrest, Chellsea, who willingly gave news station WKYT a television interview after Robert’s arrest, hit social media with a vengeance. Not only did she try to shill t-shirts emblazoned with the hashtag “#JusticeForRheaLeigh,” set up a GoFundMe (which is no longer active) to cover her daughter’s medical bills, and beg for money to pay for her divorce from Robert, but she also plastered the sordid details of her personal life all over Facebook and SnapChat. This woman posted pictures of her intubated infant daughter in the hospital on freaking TikTok, you guys.
Strangers, family, friends, and acquaintances immediately took notice of Chellsea’s behavior, and some began publicly calling her out on it, blasting photos and screenshots of her ever-”evolving” stories all over Facebook.
Interestingly, some of these posts included evidence that the Webbers had previously lost custody of their first child, Leeland, for at least the better part of 2019. They only just regained permanent custody in December. According to one Facebook friend, who I will call “A.M.” to protect her identity: “They were proven unfit for several reasons including having her oldest son out and hours all the night, not dressed properly and having the kids around a convicted registered sex offender plus more from my knowledge. To me all it seems like is they had to do ‘parenting classes’ and get a job then they was handed the kids back as if it was nothing.”
I don’t know much about the situation, but some have called out the registered sex offender/child molester in question, posting his photo from the Kentucky sex offender registry.
The following slides show a conversation Chellsea had on Facebook Messenger with an unnamed individual, proving Chellsea was aware of Michael Laytart’s sex offender status while allowing the man to be around her child.
A local named Jonathan Jones, who I am only naming because his investigation is public on both Facebook and Twitter, has done some investigation of his own into the Webbers. Chellsea, who took exception to the information he was revealing online, asked her followers to report him. She has also issued a thinly veiled threat under the guise of “warning him.” Apparently, her tactics have gotten her nowhere, because his posts are still live.
Chellsea was also trying to convince her followers to report her husband’s Facebook profile, evidently because she was unable to access it. Speculation online is running rampant that there is something in Robert’s inbox that Chellsea does not want authorities to see.
Chellsea went so far as to apply to appear on The Steve Wilkos Show. “I will definitely find out the truth,” she posted above a screenshot of her application. The title of the application reads “Is Steve the only one who can help you uncover the truth?” Um… wouldn’t you say that in this case, the fucking police are the ones working to uncover the truth? Do we really need The Jerry Springer Show’s former bouncer in the picture?
When some friends asked Chellsea about the status of the t-shirts, which they wanted to buy to show support for her critically injured daughter, she had the nerve to get salty with them about asking questions.
Even family members have taken to social media, accusing Chellsea of attention-whoring.
It didn’t take long for Chellsea to start deleting posts, removing most of her social media accounts from public view or deleting them altogether. Her TikTok is still active as of this writing. There are a bunch of videos including her children; for those not familiar with the TikTok format, be aware that the voices and sounds in these videos are not Chellsea’s, but borrowed from other creators. Of particular interest is this clip where Chellsea lip-syncs along to YNW Melly’s song Murder on My Mind. The last publicly viewable clip is text — which appears to be the same statement she provided to the news station about what happened on January 17 — set to music, followed by a photo of RheaLeigh in the hospital.
Her Facebook is active, but not much is publicly accessible.
Evidently, Chellsea also had a jalopy baby monitor situation set up in her home; it appears she literally scotch taped her old Android phone to a wall after installing a baby monitor app so she could remotely view real-time and recorded video of the children.
Chellsea posted a few short video clips on Facebook of Robert manhandling tiny RheaLeigh like a rag doll. After a hot second, as soon as people started commenting on the videos and calling her out for not turning them over to police, she removed them from her page.
In an interview with news station WKYT, Chellsea said, “I just never thought I’d have to go through something like this. Ever. The person that I laid in bed next to hurt his own kid, my kid at that. It’s a hard thing to deal with.”
It’s so hard, apparently, that she had to make a SnapChat post lamenting her lack of cuddles.
An upstairs neighbor made a few comments on Facebook about overhearing some of their poor parenting shenanigans. “…i do believe that kids and their safety should always be number one. Where these two fucktards only thinking of themselves. That boy [Leeland] crying 3am til 3:45 am next to their bed. Then one them get up pissed cause they son is an inconvenience to em, stomping thru the fucking apartment to get him something to eat.”
As the public turned on Chellsea, she became more and more defensive, insisting she had no idea Robert was abusing RheaLeigh. Even though she was present in the videos she posted of Robert’s abuse, she continued to claim she had no idea, saying she was “clearly dead asleep” and “exhausted from work” even though she can be seen moving at certain points during the videos. Meanwhile, no one is completely certain she even had a job, but that’s beside the point.
Ultimately, what has shaken out of this publicly unfolding human drama is that police are investigating Chellsea, as well. Chellsea told WKYT that she was not allowed inside the UK Children’s Hospital to visit her daughter for safety reasons, but when she was allowed to visit the RheaLeigh, she was scolded for attempting to touch and film the baby. Whoops.
Some sources say Chellsea is scheduled to appear in court tomorrow, as well.
Oh, and hey! Guess who was arrested in September of 2018 for domestic violence? Facebook friends have said that during an argument, Chellsea “beat the crap out of” Robert, leading to her arrest. The following screenshots were taken from public information on arrests.org.
I will continue to cover this case as I find updates. I’m just relieved that RheaLeigh is well enough to be released from the hospital tomorrow and that she and Leeland will have a safe, loving home with their Great-Aunt Kathy and her husband.
Kathy, whose youngest child is 23 and was not expecting to have custody of two children under the age of 2 in a matter of hours, has started a Facebook fundraiser to help cover the children’s expenses, including clothing, diapers, toiletries, furniture, and other items she will need to care for the little ones. If you can afford it, please consider donating a few dollars to help Leeland and RheaLeigh settle into their great-aunt’s home.
Many thanks to reader K.C. for bringing this case to my attention. Click here for my future/ongoing coverage of RheaLeigh’s case.
Sources: Cynthiana Democrat, WKYT, Facebook, TikTok