By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV
Publisher’s Note: The Real WV will provide in-depth reporting on the context of this legal case in the coming months. This article focuses on the most recent legal step, the filing of a civil suit against the DHHR by Raven Bumgarner.
Nearly two years to the day after the death of five children in Williamsburg, the biological mother of two of those children filed a civil lawsuit against the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR).
Raven Bumgarner’s lawyers say the DHHR received multiple reports of child abuse while her children were in the custody of Oreanna Myers & Brian Bumgarner, but they took no action. The court filing alleges numerous counts of misconduct by the state agency responsible for child welfare in recent Circuit Court filings, saying, “DHHR wilfully ignored reports of potential child abuse and/or neglect.”
The lawsuit was filed in Greenbrier County Circuit Court and assigned to Judge Jennifer Dent. Bumgarner’s lawyers (the firm of Bailey & Glasser) are seeking a jury trial.
According to the filing, Raven Bumgarner and Brian Bumgarner had two children together. They both lived with Raven. DHHR removed them from the home (located on Clay Street in Ronceverte) in early 2016 due to alleged neglect.
A retired law enforcement official, Mike Spradlin, tells The Real WV that the children were outside playing unsupervised when Raven’s boyfriend was supposed to be watching them. A report of suspected neglect was called into DHHR. The DHHR responded by removing the children from the home and placing them in a foster care home in Summers County.
During this time, Raven’s counsel alleges that Brian entered into a relationship with Oreanna Myers. The court and DHHR included Oreanna in the proceedings and ultimately decided to place both children with Brian Bumgarner and Oreanna Myers. Raven Bumgarner was granted visitation rights. She had no previous criminal record, outside of a misdemeanor charge in 2014 involving an unsupervised dog in city limits. (Brian faced the same charge in a different incident also in 2014.)
Brian and Oreanna eventually married and conceived two children, the filing says. They also had custody of Brian and Raven’s two children. In addition, Oreanna had a child of her own. In total, five children lived with Brian and Oreanna at 611 Flynns Creek Road in Williamsburg, WV.
During this time, all three adults were required to interact in their roles as parents and guardians of the children. On March 9, 2018, Oreanna Myers was alleged to have assaulted Raven Bumgarner in front of her children, with Brian Bumgarner present, and an arrest warrant was issued by Trooper Mann of the WV State Police. Oreanna entered into a plea agreement on September 19, 2018, and the assault charge was dismissed by Magistrate Kim Johnson on July 17, 2019.
Lawyers for the plaintiff allege that despite this incident of assault, DHHR made no changes to the custody situation and allowed all five children to remain in the home together.
On August 10, 2020, the son of Oreanna Myers went for a dental visit at Greenbrier Valley Pediatric Dentistry. The hygienist, Sarah Peters, noticed a large bruise on the child’s arm. The child told Peters that Brian Bumgarner was responsible for it. Peters immediately called the DHHR’s child abuse hotline to report the incident. She also reported that Brian was observed behaving in an abusive manner towards all five children in the household on the dental visit.
The court filing indicates at least two other calls were made to the DHHR child abuse hotline over the years regarding the children. One came from a certified child care provider, Cindy Buchanan. Another came from Raven Bumgarner, the children’s biological mother, at the time of the assault in 2018. West Virginia State Police Trooper Mann investigated the assault which led to the arrest warrant and informed DHHR of the incident.
Yet, the filing alleges, DHHR kept the same custody arrangement in place.
Then on December 8, 2020, the filing says, “She (Oreanna Myers) systematically executed each child with a .410 shotgun one after another…she then burned their bodies along with the home…after watching the home and her children’s bodies burn, Ms. Myers took her own life.”
Raven Bumgarner’s lawyers argue this amounts to “gross negligence” on behalf of the state, in violation of the Child Welfare Act.
Both the local and state DHHR offices were sent subpoenas in early March 2023. They have 60 days to respond.
Stay tuned to The Real WV for further reporting.