2 people charged after 2-year-old dies from injuries consistent with shaken baby syndrome

Ciera Gillespie and Thomas Cunningham have been charged after an incident last month left a...
Ciera Gillespie and Thomas Cunningham have been charged after an incident last month left a 2-year-old child dead and a 1-year-old infant seriously injured, according to police.(WV Corrections)
Published: Dec. 9, 2022 at 2:27 PM MST
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BUCKHANNON, W.Va (WDTV/Gray News) - Two people have been charged after an incident last month left a 2-year-old child dead and a 1-year-old infant seriously injured, according to police.

Deputies arrested Ciera Gillespie, 25, and her boyfriend Thomas Cunningham, 27, after an investigation into the death of a 2-year-old child left in Cunnigham’s care, according to WDTV.

According to a criminal complaint, Gillespie told police she left to go to the store at 6 p.m. on Nov. 28 and left three children, a 1-year-old, 2-year-old and a 6-year-old, with Cunningham.

Gillespie told authorities she got a call from Cunnigham 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, Cunningham reportedly 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 one-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 said deputies spoke with a doctor who said the two-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 one-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 to go to the store.

Cunningham reportedly told authorities on Dec. 10 that he had used a Percocet “to get high” while the children were in his care.

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 since he was the only person taking care of the children at the time of the incident.

Gillespie has been charged with child neglect resulting in serious bodily injury and child neglect resulting in death in connection to the case.