Lawmakers Weigh In on Death Penalty in West Virginia


After 9-month-old Emmaleigh Barringer passed away after being sexually assaulted by 32-year-old Benjamin Taylor, West Virginia Child Advocacy Network employees are grieving her loss. 

“Honestly, this is one of the most heartbreaking cases that I have ever encountered. I can only think of a handful of cases that I have been involved with that have been this tragic,” said Emily Chittenden-Laird with WVCAN.

An online petition aimed at increasing the punishment for child related crimes in West Virginia has gained more than 7,000 signatures. 

It’s something Republican Senator Mitch Carmichael agrees with. 

“West Virginia has not had a death penalty for quite some time, but this crime screams for the reconsideration of the death penalty,” said Senator Carmichael.

His opponent, Brian Prim, released a similar statement on the subject. 

“We must do all we can to protect children, the most innocent among us, and keep deranged individuals away from the children they would try to harm,” said Prim.

Senator Carmichael says it is very likely that a bill named in Emmaleigh’s honor will make it’s way to the legislature in 2017.

“It is our duty as a society to provide the most effective deterrents so that people like this guy can never prey upon our children,” said Senator Carmichael. 

While some feel stricter penalties will make a difference, West Virginia CAN employees don’t think that will help in the long run. They say continued advocacy and awareness will make the difference.

“How can we make this positive so that we can honor Emmaleigh? So that her death wasn’t in vain but rather that it’s helping other kids that are going through the same thing,” said Emily Chittenden-Laird. 

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