As I’ve said before, the wheels of justice turn slowly, but at least they’re turning.
I’ve covered the story of eight-year-old Raylee Browning multiple times on the blog, and I even featured her on episode 4 of Suffer the Little Children podcast, so I’m thrilled to be able to provide an update on Raylee’s case today.
On Thursday, June 18, grand jurors in Fayette County, West Virginia handed down three indictments on charges of death of a child by a parent, guardian, or custodian and child neglect resulting in death. The indictments were issued against Marty Browning, Jr.; his wife, Julie Browning; and Julie’s sister, Sherie Titchenell.
Marty, who is Raylee’s father, as well as the Titchenell sisters, are accused of causing Raylee’s death in December of 2018 by withholding food, water, and medical care from the little girl. CPS was supposedly monitoring Raylee at the time of her death.
According to court documents, the three adults removed Raylee from Mount Lookout Elementary School in 2017 under the guise of homeschooling her and, later, Julie’s three children. Authorities believe this was an attempt to hide Raylee’s abuse from the public, including teachers and school officials, who are mandatory reporters.
A child abuse expert who has examined the case suggested in court documents that Raylee may have been the victim of medical abuse, questioning the necessity of seven mainly psychiatric medications prescribed to the little girl despite no reports of behavioral problems from Raylee’s teachers.
Sherie Titchenell was evidently the main disciplinarian in the home. One of the children in the home told police that Sherie fed the children, gave them medicine, and punished them when necessary. She was also in charge of homeschooling the four of them, although, the child said, Raylee did not receive an education; instead, she was often forced to walk the house’s hallways for hours while the other children learned.
According to a child in the home, Sherie “hated… Raylee’s mom.”
Raylee’s mother, Janice Wriston, said, “Raylee would tell me that Sherie would hit her with belts and told me that if she didn’t call Julie ‘Mom,’ then her dad or Julie would hit her in the mouth.”
Janice said she contacted CPS in addition to West Virginia State Police, Raylee’s court-appointed attorney, and a Fayette County Family Court Judge. “No one would hear me,” Janice said. “She was terrified to go back to her father’s. It killed me every time, to have to send her back.”
In 2015, Janice said, she took Raylee to a doctor after her daughter complained of pain. “I was told she had two tears on her bottom. I filed a police report while still at the clinic.”
At a court hearing ten days later, a family court judge castigated Janice for making a false allegation of sexual abuse, threatening to put Raylee in foster care.
During a search warrant executed on the Browning-Titchenell home after Raylee’s death, police discovered a claw hammer and a vibrating sex toy in the bedroom Raylee shared with Sherie. Raylee’s autopsy revealed that, in addition to numerous bruises, lacerations, and burns, her rectum was torn at the time of her death, which was caused by severe septic infection “due to necrotizing Bronchopneumonia with diffuse alveolar damage of uncertain etiology.” The medical examiner’s opinion was that Raylee’s caregivers clearly should have noticed that the state of her health was grave.
Another highly disturbing detail I’ve just learned involved Marty’s father, Marty Browning Sr. of Glen Jean, West Virginia. Marty, who was a frequent visitor to the house, was convicted in Ohio in the 1980’s of committing sex crimes against his 5-year-old and 8-year-old nieces. His sentence was suspended in that case. He was later convicted in 20115 of three counts of first degree sexual abuse and three counts of sexual abuse by a parent after molesting his daughter from the ages of 11 to 17. For that, he spent approximately ten years in prison.
Huh. It seems being a flaming sack of garbage runs in the Browning family.
Marty Sr. has not been accused of any crimes against Raylee, but it should be noted that during a police interview, when asked about Raylee’s relationship with her grandfather, Marty Jr. straight-up puked.
A teacher at Mount Lookout Elementary School was concerned about Raylee and made reports to CPS during the 2015-2016 school year, which likely led to her withdrawal from public school.
Also, the grandmother of a girl in a Girl Scout troop Julie Browning led reported to CPS that when her granddaughter visited Julie’s home, she returned with a tale of Julie keeping a “little girl locked in a closet.” CPS investigated, but Julie was able to make up excuses to fend them off.
Up till this post, I’ve been reporting Julie’s name as Julie Titchenell, but according to the Register-Herald, Marty and Julie were married shortly after Raylee’s death. Janice said they were married in Florida. I can’t help but wonder if they tied the knot so neither could be compelled to testify against the other in the criminal trial they must have known was inevitable.
According to Fayette County prosecutors, a gag order on the criminal case prevents everyone involved, including defendants, witnesses, and attorneys, from publicly discussing the case.
Marty, Julie, and Sherie are scheduled to be arraigned on Friday, June 26 at 9:00 AM in the Fayette County Courthouse in front of the Honorable Paul M. Blake Jr., circuit court judge.
I got a wonderful surprise last weekend when both Janice and Jeremy Wriston reached out to me after hearing Raylee’s episode of the podcast. Jeremy said they loved the episode and asked me to keep telling Raylee’s story. “You are the voice for Raylee JoLynn,” Jeremy said. “We are very pleased with your podcast and urge you to keep talking about Raylee… she was a beautiful little girl with a heart so full of love.”
Janice, who shared several beautiful and heartbreaking photos of Raylee, told me, “Raylee was my heart and now and forever it will always be broken. She was the most adorable sweet smart innocent loving happy healthy snuggly baby girl with a heart full of love.”
My heart goes out to Janice, Jeremy, their kids, and everyone who loved Raylee, and I truly hope that Friday’s arraignment is the grease the wheels of justice need to start turning more quickly in this case.
Click here for my ongoing coverage of Raylee’s story.
Sources: The Montgomery Herald, the Register Herald, Jeremy and Janice Wriston