Benjamin Taylor sobbed in court Tuesday when a jury found him guilty of the 2016 sexual assault and murder of 10-month-old Emmaleigh Elizabeth Barringer and followed the verdict with a recommendation for no mercy.
It took the jury less than two hours to decide Taylor’s fate after five days of testimony in the court of Jackson County Circuit Judge Craig Tatterson. Taylor was found guilty of first-degree murder, causing the death of a child by child abuse, and sexual abuse by a parent, guardian, or custodian.
A sentencing hearing will be conducted at a later date. The no-mercy recommendation means Taylor faces life without the possibility of parole. Barringer was sexually assaulted sometime overnight between Oct. 2 and Oct. 3, 2016. She died two days later at Charleston Area Medical Center after she was taken off of life support. West Virginia Chief Medical Examiner Allen Mock listed her cause of death as blunt-force trauma exacerbated by blood loss caused by the sexual assault.
In her closing argument, Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Katie Franklin said a no mercy recommendation would be more than Taylor showed the victim whose life he destroyed.
“Should he ever get a chance to see a parole board?” Franklin said. “What happened to Emmaleigh Barringer was almost incomprehensible. He entered her, and he ripped her apart. When she cried out, he put his hand over her mouth to silence her. And when that didn’t work, he slammed her head against the floor. Then, he cleaned himself off while she lay gasping for air.”
Chief Deputy Ross Mellinger of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department was the investigating officer in the case. A number of people were responsible for making sure Barringer received justice, he said. He said he was proud of the work of the entire law-enforcement community.
“Everybody – the family and the Jackson County community as a whole – can begin the healing process today following the verdict,” Mellinger said. “You just can’t put it into words as an investigator – the amount of work, the amount of cooperation, the amount of dedication from the prosecutors.”
The trial was a difficult process for everyone involved, particularly Barringer’s family, Mellinger said.
“The hardest part of this whole thing is, honestly, having to relive it all again,” Mellinger said. “It’s a scenario that you can’t dream of. You can’t script it in the wildest of Hollywood novels. It’s something that no one can imagine ever truly happening, but it happened and it happened here in our hometown.”
Mellinger has been a law enforcement officer for more than 20 years. He said this crime was the worst he’s ever seen.
“I’ve seen and done an awful lot in my law enforcement career. There are a lot of things I like to reminisce about and a lot of things I want to forget. Even today, we kind of want to relish the victory in the courtroom, but the crime itself is something we would gladly forget if we could,” Mellinger said.
The horrific nature of the crime took its toll on everyone involved, Mellinger said.
“You can’t unsee the things that you’ve seen, and you can’t unhear the things that you’ve heard. The cries of a mother on a 911 recording, while she’s holding her dying infant, is just something you’ll never forget,” Mellinger said.
Franklin and defense attorney Tim Rosinsky declined to comment at the conclusion of the trial. Barringer’s family also declined to comment to the media.
Additional details from the last day of trial will be available in Friday’s edition of The Jackson Star News and in future online updates at jacksonnewspapers.com