Benjamin Taylor will go on trial at 10 a.m. Wednesday in Jackson County Circuit Court for the alleged sexual assault and murder of 10-month-old Emmaleigh Barringer.
Court officials were able to select 28 jurors on Tuesday, said Circuit Clerk Bruce DeWees. That number will be paired down to 16 (for a total of 12 jurors and four alternates) on Wednesday morning prior to the start of the trial.
Taylor's trial has been postponed multiple times, and the case has affected Jackson County's jury pool for the last two years, DeWees said.
"We have been calling in larger jury pools, and it has been eating at the jury pool. But we still were able to pull in enough to get this going. It has been taxing because we started with 650 names and worked it down from there. It's not just this case, but because of this case, instead of calling in the general 350, the judge has been having us send out 650."
Most recently, DeWees called in 160 potential jurors, which was narrowed down to 90.
"We had 90 scheduled to come in today and tomorrow. We were able to get the jury today, so we're calling those remaining people and calling them off," DeWees said.
Taylor, 34, was indicted in late 2016. He is incarcerated in the South Central Regional Jail without bond.
He was arrested and charged after an investigation by the Jackson County Bureau of Investigation, Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, and the Kanawha County Crime Scene Team.
On Oct. 3, 2016, Chief Deputy Ross Mellinger, who was a JCBI detective at the time, was summoned to the Ripley residence by Deputy L.M. Casto, who responded to the initial call. When he arrived, Casto found the child’s mother holding her with a significant amount of blood on and around the baby.
The initial report was that the mother was asleep and awakened to find Taylor in the basement of the home with the lights off with the toddler, who was bleeding profusely.
Taylor told police he took the toddler into the basement with him to do laundry, laid her on a blanket on the floor, and at some point tried to change her diaper, court documents allege.
According to court records, Taylor said he didn’t know how the child received the injuries, and later told police that he “blacked out” and didn’t know what happened.
Investigators allegedly found large amounts of blood on blankets and other clothing on the basement, according to the criminal complaint. The officers also observed blood on Taylor’s body.
The child was taken by EMS responders to the Jackson General Hospital emergency room with “multiple points of trauma” allegedly consistent with sexual assault and from being struck or shaken, according to Mellinger’s criminal complaint against Taylor.
The child died of her injuries on Oct. 5.
In his original complaint against Taylor, Mellinger described the victim’s injuries as “unimaginable.” The child’s injuries included tears that caused extensive bleeding, and he noted bruising around the face, head, and throat.
The doctors who treated the victim told officers the injuries were consistent with a violent sexual assault, as well as violent striking or shaking, according to court documents.
Doctors also said the child suffered brain hemorrhaging and a skull fracture and was deprived of oxygen for an extended period of time.
Police allege Taylor made no effort to seek medical help for the child.
As a result of the case, in April 2017, Gov. Jim Justice signed "Emmaleigh’s Law," which doubles the penalties for parents, guardians, or custodians convicted in the death of a child from 10-40 years to 20-80 years.