The community of Staunton, Virginia has come together to honor the short life of a little girl, who remains missing, as one of her two caretakers charged with her murder stands trial, WHSV reports.
On August 25, Augusta County Court called upon two pools of jurors totaling over 100 people for the jury selection process, WHSV says.
Brown and his former girlfriend, Candi Royer, are charged with aggravated murder, felony murder, unlawfully concealing a dead body, conspiracy to commit aggravated murder, conspiracy to commit child abuse, and conspiracy to conceal a dead body in connection with the murder of three-year-old Khaleesi Cuthriell, WMRA previously reported.
Of 60 potential jurors, 30 admitted they had heard of the case, WHSV says. Most said they would still be effective as jurors despite that. The judge also asked the pool if they knew anyone involved in the case, from the victim, the defendants, investigators, child protective services, the attorneys, or any of the 40 witnesses set to testify.
The judge also asked if the potential jurors would be able to remain objective and level-headed enough to make decisions based on law after seeing evidence that could be disturbing, WHSV continues. Some said no.
Fourteen people will be asked to serve on the jury for Travis Brown’s trial, which is expected to last five days, WHSV says.
August 28, 2023 then marked the first day of trial for 30-year-old Travis Brown, WHSV says. The day before, activists held a walk to raise awareness for Khaleesi’s case. Justice for Khaleesi Leader Erin Landes said Khaleesi’s story needs to remain public until she is found.
“Justice is coming, but Justice is not here yet and I think it’s still important to keep her story out there. She still has not been found,” Landes said.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Tim Martin used his opening statements to show pictures and videos of a bruised and bloody little girl, WVIR reports. Facebook messages also allegedly link Brown and his girlfriend, Candi Royer, to Khaleesi’s murder.
According to prosecutors, Brown allegedly told investigators that he had no idea where Khaleesi was, then claimed she killed herself, WVIR says.
Dana Cormier, Brown’s attorney, points the blame entirely on Royer, claiming Royer was the one entrusted with the child’s care, but instead abused Khaleesi, WVIR says. Royer’s trial starts on October 16, 2023.
Amanda Avery, Khaleesi’s mother, was the first in a string of witnesses to testify on Monday, WVIR notes.
Khaleesi was placed in the care of Royer and Brown by Avery, as reported by MEAWW. Avery lost contact with the couple while in prison, then discovered via the news that Royer was missing in September 2021. Augusta County Sheriff Don Smith subsequently discovered that the family hadn’t seen or heard from Khaleesi since January 2021.
Royer had told the Avery’s family that Khaleesi was with other family members, and then finally, claimed that the toddler had been picked up by Virginia Child Protective Services, the Inside Edition previously reported.
However, WVIR notes that Child Protective Services didn’t know Khaleesi was missing until August 2021.
Donald Smith released a statement following the couple’s arrest in September 2021 to “confirm that Khaleesi is not alive. I can confirm to you that she died at the address where Royer and Brown resided.”
He also accused CPS of not even trying to find Khaleesi when they knew, according to the Inside Edition.
On the stand, Avery discussed leaving Khaleesi in Royer and Brown’s care, believing Royer was her friend, and the difficulty she endured in learning her daughter was missing, WVIR says.
Landes told WHSV that protecting children like Khaleesi is a community effort, which is what the Justice for Khaleesi group is trying to tell people.
“We have to do better as a community,” she said. “We need to pay attention, and we need to be involved in our family lives, and we need to protect everyone’s children.”