Briana Heaney Published

State Leaders Give ‘Final’ Update On Boone County Girl Case

A man stands at a podium and three people sit at a desk with microphones Infront of them. They mood is serious.
(left to right) Chief of Staff Brian Abraham, West Virginia Department of Human Services Secretary Dr. Cynthia Persily, West Virginia State Superintendent of Schools Michele Blatt, and West Virginia State Police Chief of Staff Maj. James Mitchell.
WV Governor's Office
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Kyneddi Miller was found dead in her Boone County home in April. A police report said the 14-year-old girl was found in a near skeletal state. Her grandparents and mother have been charged with abuse and neglect. 

Recently, there have been conflicting reports about the actions of state agencies involved in the case and calls for accountability.

Police officers claimed they saw the now deceased Miller nearly a year before her death. They say they were concerned about the girl’s well being, so they went to Boone County’s Child Protective Services office to file a referral. However, CPS, which is a division of the Department of Human Services, says they have no record of that. 

GPS data, police reports, and audio obtained from the police officer who visited Kyneddi in 2023, all corroborate the police officer’s claim that they went to CPS to make a referral after completing a welfare check on the child. 

Brian Abraham, the governor’s chief of staff, said he interviewed the police officers and has come to the conclusion that they did visit CPS, but that the officers may have not followed the proper protocol.  

“I believe the evidence established through both GPS and the testimony of those two troopers to me, that they did in fact go to the Department of Health or Human Services,” Abraham said.  “(When) they went there, there was informal contact with the caseworkers. They relayed the information to those caseworkers not intending to make any sort of formal referral of any accusation of abuse or neglect.”

He says the officers wanted to notify CPS workers that the child had an exaggerated fear of COVID-19 that was preventing her from leaving the home. 

Department of Human Services Secretary Cynthia Persily said the police should have called a 1-800 number to officially make a report, instead of going to CPS and speaking with staff directly. She says moving forward the agency will assist those wanting to make a child abuse or neglect referral. 

“So consequently, we won’t get into the situation where we have someone who says that they made a report or a referral, or whatever we want to call it, of abuse and neglect without that actually happening,” Persily said.  

Some lawmakers and child safety advocates say classrooms are often where child abuse is discovered and have attributed Miller’s homeschooling status a factor in her death. West Virginia State Superintendent of Schools Michele Blatt says she would like to strengthen homeschool requirements. 

“The West Virginia Department of Education is eager to work with the legislature to really see how we can strengthen the guardrails around our homeschool reporting requirements,” Blatt said. “While we know that we have a great deal of homeschool parents that do things the right way and take care of their kids and it’s the best choice for those families, I think that our 7,000 foster kids in the system is proof that not all parents do what’s best for their children.”

Abraham said it’s up to policy makers to craft laws to keep these things from happening while protecting West Virginians’ right to home school their children. 

“The governor wholeheartedly supports school choice and the parents’ right to choose homeschool. But, you know, we can see it has potential ramifications,” Abraham said. “It’s a tradeoff, we have to find the sweet spot.”

Multiple members from the House of Delegates attended the press conference. They asked questions and took notes. Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, said in an emailed statement he is eager to work with the House to pass legislation to prevent this from happening again. 

“As legislators, we have an obligation to protect our most vulnerable citizens, especially our children,” Blair said in the statement. “This case has highlighted that our current system of checks and balances has cracks. To that end, we will work with the Governor’s Office, the Department of Education, the Department of Human Services, and the State Police to discuss ways that we, legislatively, can improve our regulations related to homeschooled children to ensure that no children suffer this same outcome.”