JACKSON COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – Three people have been arrested in connection to a case of child neglect in Jackson County.
According to Jackson County Sheriff Ross H. Mellinger, the incident involved 2-year-old twins in the Ripley area. Mellinger says the case was brought to deputies attention Monday evening, May 8, 2023, after one of the twins was found unresponsive.
The child was taken to Jackson General Hospital in Ripley, and then transported to CAMC Women and Children’s Hospital in Charleston. The sheriff says the 2-year-old was then flown to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown.
“The 2-year-old boy was in complete renal failure and was in a very, very dire situation,” said Mellinger.
Mellinger says the boy is currently in stable condition, but will have “a lot of hurdles to clear medically to see whether he’s even going to survive or not.”
“The neglect had reached such a level that one of the 2-year-olds had lost consciousness and was on death’s door when the notification was made to the sheriff’s office,” Mellinger said. “These boys need lots of prayers right now.”
According to the sheriff, medical staff investigated and found the boy was in a state of “extreme” malnutrition and dehydration. Deputies say they then began their own investigation and learned the twins had allegedly been locked in a room in an apartment for “as many as six weeks at a time.”
“Once our officers began their investigation, it was discovered that the twin 2-year-old boys had, basically, been locked in a Hell-on-Earth type of situation within their apartment room,” Mellinger said.
The sheriff also says 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 says 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 also says 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 also says during these alleged times, the twins were allegedly only fed pieces of ground beef and cereal under the door.
“Every time you see an incident like this, it really puts a lot of things in perspective, not only from a law enforcement standpoint, but from a parental standpoint,” said Mellinger. “It’s just amazing to me that animals like this still exist – where becoming a parent is a burden, and living in such a nasty environment. I think it’s fair to say that, given the circumstances at hand, I think the average barnyard animal would probably provide better parental care and nurturing than what these kids were afforded through the three adults living in this home.”
Michael Gillenwater, Lylee Gillenwater and Casto were arraigned on charges related to the incident in Jackson County, the sheriff says.
According to Mellinger, the other twin and a female child were also removed from the home.