Additional charges expected in ‘shaken baby’ case, sheriff says

Two people arrested in connection to the deaths of two Buckhannon toddlers will likely face more charges, officials said.
Published: Dec. 9, 2022 at 1:58 PM EST
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Two people arrested in connection to the deaths of two Buckhannon toddlers will likely face more charges, officials said.

Upshur County Sheriff Virgil Miller told 5 News additional charges are expected to be brought after the death of the second child this weekend.

Investigators are set to meet with prosecutors Monday morning, and the charges are expected to be announced this week, Miller said.

STORY UPDATE (12/11/22)

Stephanie Warner, the grandmother of the two children who suffered injuries consistent with “shaken baby syndrome,” told 5 News the one-year-old child died about two weeks after the two-year-old died.

She called what happened to the boys “horrible” and “unspeakable.”

Poling - St. Clair Funeral Home is covering the cost of the children’s’ funerals.

The family has set up a GoFundMe to help the boys’ father and sister. You can find it HERE.


A man and woman from Buckhannon have been charged after police said a two-year-old child died and a one-year-old was seriously injured last month.

Deputies were involved in an investigation at a home on Valley Green Drive in Buckhannon regarding an incident involving a child, according to a criminal complaint.

In a statement, 25-year-old Ciera Gillespie said she left to go to the store around 6 p.m. on Nov. 28 and left three children with her boyfriend, 27-year-old Thomas Cunningham, the report says. A one-year-old infant was asleep in the bedroom while two other children, ages two and six, were still awake with Cunningham in the living room.

Gillespie told authorities she received a call as she was pulling into the driveway that something was wrong with the two-year-old child. As she went into the home, Cunningham reportedly handed her the child, and “his body was limp, with blood coming from his mouth and nose.”

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

The two-year-old was later pronounced dead at Ruby Memorial Hospital, authorities said.

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

In a separate statement at the WVSP Sutton detachment 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 to go to the store.

Also on Dec. 1, Cunningham reportedly told authorities he had used a Percocet “to get high” while the children were in his care.

Because Cunningham was the only person taking care of the children, deputies said they believe Cunningham maliciously and intentionally injured the one-year-old and caused the two-year-old’s death.

Cunningham was arrested by the Upshur County Sheriff’s Office and has been charged with child abuse resulting in injury and child abuse resulting in death. He is being held without bond at Tygart Valley Regional Jail.

Gillespie was arrested by West Virginia State Police in Braxton County and has been charged with child neglect resulting in serious bodily injury and child neglect resulting in death. She is being held at Central Regional Jail on a $200,000 cash-only bond.