VIDEO: Community shares hurt after Jackson County, West Virginia, child abuse and neglect case

JACKSON COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – A young boy hospitalized after an alleged case of extreme neglect in Jackson County, West Virginia is now off the ventilator, according to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

Jackson County Sheriff Ross H. Mellinger took to Facebook this evening to announce the 2-year-old boy is “making substantial strides” in his recovery.

“He is far from recovered and far from out of the woods, but he is certainly has made some rather monumental strides since this time last week,” Mellinger said.

The child was found unresponsive Monday, May 8, in his home, Mellinger said the following day. He was then taken to Jackson General Hospital in Ripley, then transported to CAMC Women and Children’s Hospital in Charleston and then flown to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown for medical treatment.

“I think the multitude of prayers from everybody nationwide, maybe even world wide at this point, has certainly done the trick along with the great medical staff there in Morgantown at Ruby Memorial,” Mellinger said.

At the time of the incident, the sheriff said medical staff investigated and found the boy was in a state of “extreme” malnutrition and dehydration. Deputies said they then began their own investigation and learned the boy and his twin brother had allegedly been locked in a room in an apartment for “as many as six weeks at a time.”

The sheriff also said the parents, identified as Michael Gillenwater and Lylee Gillenwater, of Ripley, are accused of having allegedly self-medicated the children for long periods of time in order to get them to sleep. Mellinger said Lylee Gillenwater allegedly lived in the basement of the apartment of the building with her boyfriend, identified by authorities as Brian Casto, while Michael Gillenwater lived upstairs.

Mellinger called the boys’ living situation a “a Hell-on-Earth type of situation,” alleging the three adults would allegedly use a padlock-type lock to keep the twins in what he called a “very soiled-conditions type of bedroom” for days at a time with nothing but a diaper on. The sheriff added that the twins were allegedly only fed pieces of ground beef and cereal under the door.

“We want to reach out and extend a bit of gratitude to all the first responders that took care of this case from our dispatchers to our medical staff to the deputies and detectives hear at the sheriff’s office. And numerous individuals at Jackson General Hospital, Women and Children’s there in Charleston and obviously again at Ruby Memorial in Morgantown,” Mellinger said.

Mellinger said the other twin and a female child were also removed from the home.

According to the Jackson County Magistrate Court, Casto waived his preliminary hearing in court today, May 17, 2023. His case was bound over to the Jackson County Circuit Court for grand jury.

Mellinger says the Gillenwaters have also had their preliminary hearings, and that probable cause was found for both, meaning their cases will also proceed to the grand jury.