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Justice: Laws need changed on child abuse disclosure, but hands tied federally

By Steven Allen Adams, The Parkersburg News and Sentinel

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice said Tuesday that while he would support changing state laws to lessen restrictions on the kinds of information West Virginia human resources officials can disclose when the death of a child is involved, he said federal laws also tie their hands.

Speaking during his weekly administration briefing Tuesday from the State Capitol Building, Justice confirmed that Child Protective Service (CPS) workers within the state Department of Human Services were unaware of the circumstances behind the death of a 14-year-old girl in Boone County after law enforcement officers found her in what they called a “skeletal state” due to years of malnutrition.

“The CPS folks from what I understand had no idea about this child, no idea whatsoever,” Justice said.

The child’s mother, 49-year-old Julie Anne Stone Miller, was charged last week with child neglect causing death. According to a criminal complaint filed by the Boone County Sheriff’s Department, the child was found “emaciated to a skeletal state.”

According to interviews with family members, the child had been in and out of school since 2019 and had not been eating consistently for months and even years. More charges could be brought as deputies continue their investigation.

“This is a tragedy that is unthinkable … but stuff like this happens,” Justice said. “Really and truly, we have a lot of people out there that may have known of this kid.”

The governor’s revelation about CPS came one day after Cynthia Persily, cabinet secretary of DoHS, issued a statement expressing remorse for the death of the child, but stating that no information regarding the girl or any current of previous investigations would be released by the department.

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