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‘Emmaleigh’s Law’ would double child abuse penalties in West Virginia


The Parkersburg News and Sentinel

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — The West Virginia Senate president this week introduced a bill that doubles the penalties for child abuse offenses in memory of a young Jackson County girl who died last year after being sexually assaulted.

Senate Bill 288, or Emmaleigh’s Law, sets the minimum sentence for death of a child by a parent, guardian, custodian or other person by child abuse at 20 years and the maximum at 80. Previously the sentence ranged from 10 to 40 years.

“Short of the death penalty, which requires a constitutional amendment, I wanted to do all that we could,” Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, said Thursday.

The law is named after 10-month-old Emmaleigh Elizabeth Barringer, who died Oct. 5, two days after being found bloody and battered in the basement of her mother’s Ripley apartment, with the woman’s boyfriend, 32-year-old Cottageville resident Benjamin Ryan Taylor.

Taylor is in custody at the South Central Regional Jail, awaiting trial on first-degree murder and sexual assault charges. A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for March 22.

If approved, the bill would also extend the sentencing range to 20 to 40 years for sexual abuse by a parent, guardian, custodian or person in a position of trust; six to 30 years for child neglect resulting in death; two to 10 years for child abuse resulting in injury; and two to six years for child neglect resulting in injury. Fines associated with these crimes would also be doubled from their current levels.

“There’s no penalty harsh enough,” Carmichael said.

The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone. Carmichael expects it to receive a great deal of support.

“I have no doubt that this will fly through the Legislature,” he said.

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