GRAPHIC: Second child dies from suspected shaken baby syndrome case in W.Va.

Additional charges are expected to be brought against Ciera Gillespie, 25, and Thomas Cunningham, 27, who were arrested in connection to the case, police said.
Published: Dec. 12, 2022 at 11:15 AM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BUCKHANNON, W.Va. (WDTV/Gray News) - A 1-year-old West Virginia boy has died weeks after his 2-year-old brother succumbed to injuries in what a doctor said appeared to be cases of shaken baby syndrome, according to officials.

Upshur County Sheriff Virgil Miller said additional charges are expected to be brought against Ciera Gillespie, 25, and Thomas Cunningham, 27, who were arrested in connection to the case.

Stephanie Warner, the grandmother of the two children, confirmed to WDTV that the 1-year-old boy had passed over the weekend, calling what happened “horrible” and “unspeakable.”

According to a criminal complaint, Gillespie told police she left to go to the store Nov. 28 and left three children, the two boys and a 6-year-old, with Cunningham.

Gillespie told authorities she got a call from Cunningham as she was pulling into the driveway that something was wrong with the 2-year-old. According to the complaint, Gillespie said she entered the home and Cunningham handed her the child, who was reportedly limp with “blood coming from his mouth and nose.”

Deputies said Cunningham called 911 and an ambulance responded. Gillespie told deputies that as she and the ambulance were leaving the home, Cunningham ran out with the 1-year-old, saying “there was something wrong with this baby also.”

The 2-year-old was later pronounced dead at a hospital, according to authorities.

The report stated deputies spoke with a doctor who said the 2-year-old’s manner of death was consistent with shaken baby syndrome and that “the retinal injuries were the worst he had seen in 20 years.” He also told deputies the injuries to the 1-year-old were “significant” and also a result of shaken baby syndrome, adding that “would have to be a violent trauma with immediate incapacitation.”

In a separate statement from the West Virginia State Police on Dec. 1, authorities said Gillespie believed Cunningham was under the influence of a controlled substance by the way he was acting when she left the children in his care. Cunningham reportedly told authorities on Saturday that he had used a Percocet.

Cunningham was arrested by the Upshur County Sheriff’s Office and previously charged with child abuse resulting in injury and child abuse resulting in death. Gillespie was charged with child neglect resulting in serious bodily injury and child neglect resulting in death in connection to the case.

Poling - St. Clair Funeral Home is covering the cost of the children’s’ funerals. The family set up a GoFundMe to help the boys’ father and sister.