MADISON, W.Va. — Lawyers for a mother accused of child neglect causing death objected to a related investigation of state responsibility for the welfare of the girl who wound up dying “emaciated to a skeletal state.”

Attorneys for Julie Anne Stone Miller, the mother, asked for a scheduled Thursday press conference with representatives of the Justice administration to be halted. The lawyers contended that Miller was deceptively interviewed in jail this week by child protective services representatives.

Following a hearing in the Boone County courthouse, a circuit judge ruled that the press conference can go on but that all communication with Miller from here on must go through her attorneys. The judge also said information gathered from Miller at the jail could not be released during the press conference.

The attorneys for Miller wrote in a Thursday court filing that “there appears to be a rush to investigate and a fervor to scapegoat wherever possible; this inherent rush gives no credence to Ms. Miller’s constitutional rights and must be halted to ensure adequate protections are present in the investigation.”

The administration of Gov. Jim Justice has planned a 2 p.m. Thursday press conference to discuss the results of its investigation into how the state handled the welfare of 14-year-old Kynnedi Miller.

The press conference at the Capitol was characterized as involving the administration’s chief of staff, Brian Abraham, West Virginia State Police Chief of Staff James Mitchell, West Virginia Department of Human Services Secretary Cynthia Persily and West Virginia State Superintendent of Schools Michele Blatt. The announcement did not describe Governor Justice as a participant.

“It is rare to see the Governor assemble such a group of department heads to answer the public’s questions, even rarer when such an assembly is brought concerning an alleged criminal action. With such a specter looming, it is incumbent upon the judicial system and this honorable to protect the fundamental constitutional rights of the accused,” lawyers for Miller wrote in their filing.

Justice has said his administration is gathering information from government agencies as part of an ongoing investigation.

Miller was found dead on the bathroom floor of her Boone County home in April. Her mother and grandparents have been charged with felony child neglect causing death.

According to investigators, the teen had not attended school since late 2019 or 2020 and hadn’t been outside the house more than a couple of times in the last four years.

Questions have swirled about whether state agencies provided oversight that could have saved her life.

A West Virginia State Police call log and audio from a March 2023 visit by a trooper to the home described “making a CPS referral on it also; that way they can follow up on it,” according to reporting by WCHS television.

WCHS reporter Leslie Rubin reported GPS coordinates showing the trooper drove his cruiser directly to the Boone County human services office in Foster, Boone County, after leaving the home. The coordinates indicate he was at the office for 8 minutes and 12 seconds before leaving.

Last month, the state Department of Human Services distributed a statement saying the agency has no record of receiving that child protective services referral.

The lawyers for Miller wrote that it is “apparent that the Governor’s office and its attorneys have largely been in the dark regarding what was and was not done by the various agencies as evidenced by the Governor’s very clear walking back of initial statements regarding CPS’s involvement in an investigation of K.M.

“This lack of information and the vary apparent and very public criticism of West Virginia Child Protective Services, specifically the Boone County Child Protective Services must exert tremendous pressure on the local workers, who now undoubtedly are in crisis mode, apparently undertaking an investigation into the events and circumstances of this matter, not at the eleventh hour, but well after midnight.”

Miller’s lawyers wrote in their filing that on Tuesday, Miller was told by a correctional officer that her “attorney” was at South Central Regional Jail to meet her. “Upon arriving at the visitation and meeting area at South Central Regional Jail, Ms. Miller was surprised to find that the woman waiting there at an interview table was not in fact her attorney, but someone else—a child protective services (“CPS”) investigator present to interrogate her.”

After the investigator started asking questions about Kynnedi’s sleeping patterns, according to the filing, Miller objected that she wouldn’t respond without her lawyers present. Her lawyers contend they called the Department of Human Services to try to figure out what was going on and then spoke with Boone County Prosecutor Dan Holstein, who said he knew nothing of the CPS visit to the jail.

The lawyers for Miller contend that public pressure has pushed state officials to go beyond their investigative authority.

“Unlike CPS’s normal course of investigative conduct, i.e. investigating suspected abuse and neglect of children to determine whether there exists imminent danger necessitating the removal of a child from a home of a parent, guardian, or other custodian, CPS has engaged in an investigation where the child has already passed and therefore, by definition is no longer in danger,” wrote Miller’s lawyers.

“Instead there appears to be a rush to investigate and a fervor to scapegoat wherever possible; this inherent rush gives no credence to Ms. Miller’s constitutional rights and must be halted to ensure adequate protections are present in the investigation.”

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