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Justice signs ‘Emmaleigh’s Law’


The Parkersburg News and Sentinel

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bill that was brought about after the death of a 10-month-old girl in Jackson County last fall was signed into law.

This week Gov. Jim Justice signed bills passed by the West Virginia Legislature during its last session, which came to a close recently.

One of the bills signed by Justice is Senate Bill 288, known as “Emmaleigh’s Law,” which increases penalties for death of child by a parent, guardian, custodian or other person by child abuse to an indeterminate term of 15 years to life.

“If any parent, guardian or custodian maliciously and intentionally inflicts upon a child under his or her care, custody or control substantial physical pain, illness or any impairment of physical condition by other than accidental means, thereby causing the death of such child, then such parent, guardian or custodian is guilty of a felony,” the bill said.

The bill also made it a felony for a parent, guardian or custodian to knowingly allow any other person to harm their child.

Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, who sponsored the original bill, said he was pleased Wednesday that the governor had signed the bill into law.

The bill passed both houses of the Legislature, 33-0 in the Senate and 99-0 in the House.

“There were no ‘no’ votes on this bill,” Carmichael said.

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, Cottageville resident Benjamin Ryan Taylor. Taylor is accused of sexually assaulting and killing Barringer.

Carmichael said the crime prompted a lot of petitions to lawmakers to increase the penalties in these types of crimes.

“This tragic death was the genesis for this bill,” Carmichael said. “We wanted to do everything we could to protect the children.”

Although pleased the legislation is now law, Carmichael said he hated the fact a young child had to die to bring it about.

Because West Virginia does not have the death penalty, the purpose of the law is to increase penalties and provide a serious deterrent to anyone who would even contemplate taking this kind of action, Carmichael said.

“We want to do all we can to protect those who can’t protect themselves,” he said.

Taylor is in custody at the South Central Regional Jail in Charleston. He was indicted in November by a Jackson County Grand Jury on two counts of first-degree murder, one count of death of a child by child abuse, one count of first-degree sexual assault and one count of sexual abuse by a guardian, custodian or person in a position of trust to a child.

Trial has been set in Jackson County Circuit Court for Aug. 8 at 9 a.m.

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