JACKSON COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – A 2-year-old boy is unconscious, on a ventilator and fighting for his life two days after deputies in Jackson County, West Virginia, arrived on the scene of an extreme child abuse and neglect situation.
The boy and his twin brother spent months living in what investigators are calling “deplorable” conditions. They also have an 18-month-old sister.
Investigators and neighbors said what should have been a normal first two years of childhood was anything but that for the three children from Ripley.
Court records revealed on Wednesday said the twin boys lived in a locked bedroom with no water or a toilet, and deputies said pieces of ground beef and cheerios were found near the door, apparently the only food given to the boys.
“This was daily life for them. This is how they functioned. They woke up every day and went to bed every night ignoring these kids, leaving them as trash as any other person would in their home. That’s kind of scary about this is this was their daily routine. This was their daily life,” Jackson County Sheriff Ross Mellinger said.
Mellinger said what stands out about this case it how it is not only one isolated incident but months of neglect.
“Why and how a parent can isolate and target one child over another just blows my mind. I just don’t get it,” Mellinger said. “I guess you reach a level of evil and reach a level of detachment to where every morning they wake up with a level of acceptance thinking that that’s okay.”
The three children were living in the Rolling Meadow Village Apartment Complex with their mother, Lylee Gillenwater (Adkins); the mother’s husband, Michael Gillenwater; and the mother’s boyfriend, Brian Casto.
One of the adults living in the apartment was the first to call 911 on Monday night after one of the twin boys became unconscious due to kidney failure caused by malnourishment.
Days later, neighbors are feeling shocked knowing this happened so close to their homes.
“I just can’t imagine how anyone could, not even my kids or any child, I don’t know how they could do something like that to them. There’s no sense in that. There’s a way around it. There’s no cause for it,” neighbor Josh Watson said.
Watson continued, “It was unbelievable. I cannot believe them, somebody didn’t notice something. I feel like you’re living this close to them, somebody should have knew something.”
One woman, who didn’t want share her name, said many neighbors living in the area most likely never saw the kids, but those who did, should speak up.
“The bystanders that saw the kids go through this, saw what they were doing to the kids, were around in that time frame, I think they should be held accountable as well,” the woman said.
The woman said this case of child abuse and neglect is hard to wrap her head around as a mother.
“A mother letting her children go through that and putting them through that and exposing them to so much trauma, I think that it’s just hard to comprehend,” the woman said. “You can’t say what you would do in a situation, but I would never do that to my kids. I would never do that to anybody’s kids.”
The Jackson County sheriff said the 18-month-old-girl and one of the twin boys are now in CPS custody. The other twin is still unconscious, fighting for his life in the hospital.
Bond has been set for $150,000 for each adult, and the arraignment was on Tuesday.
No court hearings have been scheduled yet.