While the community of Ripley, West Virginia still attempts to come to terms with the unbearable tragedy that was the death of 10-month-old Emmaleigh Barringer, new details have emerged that make the horrifying case even sadder. The baby girl was found naked, covered in blood, and unresponsive in the basement level of a home she shared with her mother, her three older siblings, and her mother’s new boyfriend, Benjamin Taylor, who had only been living with them for approximately a month.
Her mother found her there at 4:30 a.m., lying in the dark, with Taylor also in the basement. According to WSAZ, Emmaleigh’s mother, Amanda Adkins, testified that she screamed at Taylor, who remained silent. She then ran with the limp body of her daughter upstairs to call 911. One of Adkins’ cousins said that Emmaleigh’s mother was holding her in her arms when she took her final breath.
The case drew nationwide attention when police said “it was the worst sexual assault they had seen in decades” and that the blood loss was from severe internal injuries and head trauma. However, the autopsy of Emmaleigh showed she died from a skull fracture. Emmaleigh was on a ventilator for a short period of time before her family had to make the difficult decision to remove her from life support. Tests showed that she had no brain activity, and she died soon after.
Immediately, a public outcry began, calling for the death of Benjamin Taylor, who police said was found with blood on him and “trying to wipe something off of him.” There is no death penalty in West Virginia, so the most that Taylor could see is life in prison without the possibility of parole. He is currently being held in Southern Regional Jail in lieu of a $2 million dollar bond. A citizen started a petition to “publicly hang” Benjamin Taylor for taking the life of Emmaleigh Barringer in such a horrific way, but the petition was removed after receiving approximately 50,000 signatures in the time span of a couple days. The petition was not legal because West Virginia has outlawed the death penalty and public lynchings have not occurred legally for over a century.
Although the sexual assault took place on October 3 and Taylor, who has a young son with another woman, was immediately taken into custody and charged, he did not appear for a preliminary hearing until October 12 in Jackson County, West Virginia.
Emmaleigh Barringer’s mother was also present at the hearing and testified that she and Taylor had been smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol the evening before she found Emmaleigh near death. Amanda Adkins was apparently asleep as the assault took place and so far, has not been charged with any wrong-doing in the death of her daughter.
Danielle Adkins, first cousin of Emmaleigh’s mother Amanda Adkins, said that Amanda was completely swept off her feet by Taylor, who goes by “Benji” according to his Facebook page.
“The only way justice is going to be served is if he feels every ounce of pain that he caused her too. It wasn’t enough that he took her innocence, he had to take her life too. You literally would have thought he was a Prince Charming, she was so lit up inside. He wanted to do things with her and he hung out with the kids.”
While the community responded with candlelit prayer vigils for the infant girl, West Virginia CASA director, Traci Busch, says that she hopes awareness about child abuse is raised to a new level.
“Oftentimes the general people in the community don’t always understand the severity of it and the extent of it. I hope that people come away with…that they do have the capability to help kids in their community and all they need to do is keep their eyes and ears open for opportunities and they’re out there.”
The Jackson county magistrate court ruled that the murder case against Benjamin Taylor would go to the grand jury.
[Featured Image by Southern Regional Jail, West Virginia]