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Shameful

People who could have saved girl failed her

Little Raylee JoLynn Browning’s pain-filled life ended the day after Christmas last year. She was just 8 years old when she went into cardiac arrest, probably before she was taken to a hospital. A medical examiner’s report blamed an infection for her death.

Authorities had known for some time — exactly how long has yet to be determined — that the child was being abused.

This week, three adults were charged in Raylee’s death. One is her father, Marty Browning. Another is his domestic partner, Julie Dawn Titchenell. The third is her sister, Sherie Titchenell.

Law enforcement officials became suspicious immediately after hospital workers told them about Raylee. A police sergeant reported the child’s body was covered in bruises, lacerations, burns and other injuries. After investigating for nearly a year, authorities charged the three adults.

Details of the little girl’s life were reported by The Register-Herald of Beckley, then picked up by The Associated Press. We warn you: What happened is at the same time heartbreaking, sickening and infuriating.

Raylee was subjected to a variety of abuses. When the adults in her home wanted to punish her, they refused to allow her to drink anything. Another child in the home, a daughter of Julie Titchenell, said Raylee sometimes drank water out of the toilet.

At school, she sometimes asked cafeteria workers for more food than normal. She was not allowed to eat at home, she explained.

Raylee was beaten frequently with metal objects, the other child told investigators. A doctor said she may have been abused medically, by being given seven drugs for autism and mood disorders.

When the family lived in Nicholas County, Raylee’s teachers “mademultiple referrals” to state Child Protective Services, the Register-Herald reported. Then she was taken out of school because “Sherrie Titchenell could think of no more lies” to explain Raylee’s condition, the AP quoted police as saying.

People who could have saved her — who are supposed to protect at-risk children — failed Raylee. Exactly how that happened needs to be determined. Police are looking into the situation.

One thing seems obvious: Public school teachers did their best to help the little girl. Removal from the education system for “home schooling” eliminated the shield with which they tried to protect her. Possibly because the family moved out of Nicholas County, that day-to-day oversight by educators was never replaced.

So many things in Raylee’s case demand answers. In the end, they amount to a single, deeply troubling question:

How could we West Virginians have allowed this to happen?