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BUCKHANNON, W.Va. — Two people from Buckhannon are facing charges after a 2-year-old died and a 1-year-old suffered serious injuries consistent with “shaken baby” syndrome last month, according to the Upshur County Sheriff’s Office.
On Nov. 28, Upshur County deputies were involved in an investigation at a residence on Valley Drive Road in reference to “an infant’s drug overdose,” according to a criminal complaint.
When deputies arrived, they made contact with Ciera Gillespie, 25; and Thomas Cunningham, 27, both of Buckhannon, and that Gillespie stated “she had left to go to Walmart,” and that the three children (ages 1, 2 and 6) were left in Cunningham’s care at that time, deputies said.
While away from the residence, Gillespie “received a call from Cunningham that something was wrong with the baby,” and when Gillespie returned to the apartment, Cunningham “handed her [the 2-year-old] and his body was limp and blood was coming from his mouth and nose,” according to the complaint.
Cunningham called 911 and an ambulance responded, however, before the ambulance left, “Cunningham came out running [with the 1-year-old],” and stated “there was something wrong with this baby also,” deputies said.
On Nov. 30, the 2-year-old was pronounced dead at Ruby Memorial Hospital, and a doctor at the facility stated the child had died in a “manner of death” that was “a traumatic injury consistent with ‘shaken baby’,” and that “the retinal injuries were the worst he had seen in 20 years,” according to the complaint.
The doctor also stated that the 1-year-old had sustained injuries that “were significant and also a result of ‘shaken baby’ as well” and that “it would have to be a violent trauma with immediate incapacitation,” deputies said.
On Dec. 1, Gillespie gave a statement to troopers with the Braxton County detachment of the West Virginia State Police saying “she believed Cunningham was under the influence of a controlled substance by the way he was acting when she left the children in his care and custody,” according to the complaint.
On that same day, Cunningham gave a statement to troopers that “he had used a Percocet to get high while he was left in the care and custody of the two infant children,” during which time the 2-year-old child died as a result of injuries, and the 1-year-old child was given “serious bodily injury,” deputies said.
Because Cunningham was the individual left in the sole custody of the children during their time of injury and since he “maliciously and intentionally” harmed the children, he has been charged with child abuse resulting in injury and child abuse resulting in the death of a child.
Due to Gillespie leaving the children in Cunningham’s custody “while knowing Cunningham was under the influence of a controlled substance” which led to the “serious bodily injury” of the 1-year-old and death of the 2-year-old, she has been charged with child neglect resulting in death and child neglect resulting in serious bodily injury.
Gillespie is being held in the Tygart Valley Regional Jail on $200,000 bond.
Cunningham is being held without bond at Tygart Valley Regional Jail.