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Police: Child in Braxton home may have been dead for weeks

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An 8-year-old child found dead in a Braxton County home on Wednesday might have been dead for several weeks, State Police said.

On Thursday, Valarie Lee Brown, 39, of Sutton, was charged with child neglect resulting in death after State Police Trooper G.H. Jones accompanied a hospice care worker to Brown's home to try to get inside. State Police spokesman Sgt. Michael Baylous said hospice workers had tried to visit the child on several occasions but been denied entry.

Once they got inside, they found 8-year-old Levi Burroughs dead and wrapped in a blanket. His body was partially decomposed, police said.

Baylous said the boy's body was sent to the State Medical Examiner's office to determine the cause and approximate time of death, but he said the body appeared to have been in the home from several days to several weeks when found.

"It appears to us that he was probably there for an extended period of time," Baylous said.

Baylous said Burroughs was terminally ill with Hurler syndrome. The degenerative disease is characterized by degeneration of the body's organs and progressive mental retardation, and many victims die by the age of 10.

Baylous said Brown had denied the boy medical care, the justification for the child neglect charge.

"He may have died of natural causes, but the fact is she denied him the opportunity for care," Baylous said. "She had turned hospice away from entering that home on several previous attempts."

At her arraignment Thursday in Braxton County Magistrate Court, Brown admitted to a previous conviction on a meth-related conspiracy charge.

State Police recently introduced a new computerized system to help keep track of children they believe are in unsafe home environments due to drugs, neglect or other problems in the home.

"We run into that almost on a daily basis," Baylous said. "These types of things are maddening to us. We've got a lot of troopers who are fathers and mothers.

"As a father of four, this just infuriates me to think that an 8-year-old child spent the last hours before his death in a situation where there was no love or compassion," Baylous said of the Burroughs case.

According to a criminal complaint on file in Braxton County Magistrate Court, Brown asked the hospice worker not to hurt her son when Jones and the hospice worker were finally allowed inside. Brown has another child, who was not at home at the time.

Brown remained in the Central Regional Jail on Friday, with bail set at $100,000 cash only.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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