The trial scheduled to begin on March 10 in the Raylee Browning case out of West Virginia has been continued.
Raleigh County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Brian Parsons, who was appointed as a special prosecutor in the case due to a possible conflict of interest involving Fayette County Prosecutor Anthony Ciliberti’s wife, who taught Raylee at Nicholas County Elementary School, has asked Fayette County Circuit Court Judge Paul Blake to postpone the trial to a later date.
Raylee was eight years old when she died on December 26, 2018 from a severe septic infection and other complications caused by untreated pneumonia. Her autopsy revealed that her little body was covered in abrasions and bruises, and a tear was present in her rectum.
In December of 2019, three people were arrested in connection with Raylee’s death: her father, Marty Browning; his wife, Julie Titchenell Browning; and Julie’s sister, Sherie Titchenell, all of whom lived in the home with Raylee, along with Julie’s other children. All of the kids in the house were homeschooled, although Raylee allegedly received little if any schooling once she was pulled out of public school due to reports made to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR).
Raylee’s life was reportedly a living hell under the “care” of Marty, Julie, and Sherie. She was denied food regularly. Water was withheld as punishment, at times for so long that other children reported Raylee drank from a toilet. She was forced to wear a diaper, to sleep on the floor, and to stand in silence or walk silently up and down the hallway while the other children were home-schooled. Medical care was also withheld, which ultimately led to the death of this beautiful little girl whose mommy called her “my Sunshine.”
The three defendants each face charges of death by a parent, guardian, or custodian and child neglect resulting in death. All three bonded out of jail within days of their arrests and have been walking free since.
At a pre-trial hearing via the Microsoft Teams app in February, Prosecutor Brian Parsons also asked Judge Blake to order Facebook to produce account data for both Sherie Titchenell and Julie Browning, who married Raylee’s father shortly after the little girl died.
A Fayette county magistrate’s order issued on June 21, 2019 ordered that Facebook turn over the records as requested, but Facebook has, thus far, ignored the request. Parsons told the judge, “I filed this motion after having had an opportunity to speak to the investigating officer. He served search warrants on Facebook. The social media company’s taken the position that they will not comply with the search warrant. They will only comply with a court order. We’re asking that you order that.”
Parsons is seeking the Facebook data because he believes it may provide evidence of “misappropriated funds through social media that pertain to the defendants in this case,” although he also said that exculpatory evidence could be found, as well.
According to Raylee’s mom, Janice Wriston, Marty and Julie set up an online fundraiser in December of 2018 to collect donations for Raylee’s funeral expenses. However, the couple allegedly used the money to get married and travel to Florida.
Both Julie’s attorney, Mark Plants, and Sherie’s court-appointed attorney, Evan Dove, objected to the request for their clients’ Facebook data in whole or in part. Noting privacy concerns, Judge Blake asked each attorney to provide arguments on the prosecution’s motion by the end of last week, which he said he would review before making a decision. It is unknown if he has ruled yet on the motion.
Judge Blake did, however, grant Parsons’ request to continue the trial that was scheduled to begin on March 10, assuring the defendants and their attorneys that he would do his best to ensure the trial takes place before the end of this court cycle in mid-May.
Marty’s defense attorney, Steve Mancini, asked Judge Blake to note on the continuance order that the postponement was granted at the request of the state.
The trial may take up to four days, and Parsons said he has at least 45 witnesses.
A motions hearing is scheduled in the case for March 26, during which Judge Blake will hear motions from both sides, including defense motions for a change of venue from Fayette County and to dismiss the charges against the three defendants. Judge Blake set aside the full afternoon of March 26 to hear the motions.
Sources: The Register-Herald, WVVA