The Journal of Martinsburg, W.Va., published this editorial on Dec. 20 regarding the arrests of three people nearly a year after the death of a West Virginia girl:
Little Raylee JoLynn Browning’s pain-filled life ended the day after Christmas last year. She was just 8 years old when she went into cardiac arrest, probably before she was taken to a hospital. A medical examiner’s report blamed an infection for her death.
Authorities had known for some time — exactly how long has yet to be determined — that the child was being abused.
This week, three adults were charged in Raylee’s death. One is her father, Marty Browning. Another is his domestic partner, Julie Dawn Titchenell. The third is her sister, Sherie Titchenell.
Law enforcement officials became suspicious immediately after hospital workers told them about Raylee. A police sergeant reported the child’s body was covered in bruises, lacerations, burns and other injuries. After investigating for nearly a year, authorities charged the three adults.
Details of the little girl’s life were reported by The Register-Herald of Beckley, then picked up by The Associated Press. We warn you: What happened is at the same time heartbreaking, sickening and infuriating.
Raylee was subjected to a variety of abuses. When the adults in her home wanted to punish her, they refused to allow her to drink anything. Another child in the home, a daughter of Julie Titchenell, said Raylee sometimes drank water out of the toilet.
At school, she sometimes asked cafeteria workers for more food than normal. She was not allowed to eat at home, she explained.
Raylee was beaten frequently with metal objects, the other child told investigators. A doctor said she may have been abused medically, by being given seven drugs for autism and mood disorders.
When the family lived in Nicholas County, Raylee’s teachers “made multiple referrals” to state Child Protective Services, the Register-Herald reported. Then she was taken out of school because “Sherrie Titchenell could think of no more lies” to explain Raylee’s condition, the AP quoted police as saying.
People who could have saved her — who are supposed to protect at-risk children — failed Raylee. Exactly how that happened needs to be determined. Police are looking into the situation.
One thing seems obvious: Public school teachers did their best to help the little girl. Removal from the education system for “home schooling” eliminated the shield with which they tried to protect her. Possibly because the family moved out of Nicholas County, that day-to-day oversight by educators was never replaced.
So many things in Raylee’s case demand answers. In the end, they amount to a single, deeply troubling question:
How could we West Virginians have allowed this to happen?
Kentucky lieutenant governor an inspiration
The State Journal of Frankfort, Ky., pubished this editorial on Dec. 19 regarding Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman:
Though not what she expected, Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman’s quick ascent in Kentucky politics while visibly pregnant and simultaneously juggling a family has struck a familiar chord with many across the state — ourselves included.
A former high school girls basketball coach and mother, Coleman certainly doesn’t fit the mold of a hardened politician, but perhaps that is what makes her so relatable. Already a “bonus” mom to husband and Frankfort High School boys basketball coach Chris O’Bryan’s two sons, Will and Nate, the family’s adoption of daughter, Emma Young, (became) official on Monday, and the newest family member, Evelynne, is due in February.
In fact, when she announced her pregnancy via Twitter in August, Coleman wrote, “Most of the blessings in my life have been completely unexpected.”
We agree. Whether anticipated or not, the new lieutenant governor has been thrust into a leadership role and is an inspiring example for all Kentucky women, but especially those of the younger generation. She is proof that women can hold prominent positions while being a mother and raising a family.
While Coleman readily admits there is “no playbook” for the future, she does hope more mothers take on leadership positions.
“We certainly need more moms — women certainly, but also moms — helping to shape public police because it affects our kids,” she told a State Journal reporter last week.
But the road to the Capitol wasn’t lined with roses for Coleman either. In 2014, she lost an election for a House seat that her father, Jack Coleman, held to Republican Rep. Kim King.
But she didn’t take the defeat personally and got back on the proverbial horse, perhaps taking a piece of advice from former fellow coach John Wooden, who said, “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”