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Caretaker Couple Indicted For Suspected Murder Of Missing Toddler

Candi Royer and Travis Brown have been indicted on murder and related charges for the presumed killing of 3-year-old Khaleesi Cuthriell, who was put in their care by her mother.

By Gina Tron
Caretaker Couple Indicted For Murder Of Missing Toddler

A Virginia couple has been officially charged with murder in connection with a 3-year-old girl who was put in their care.

On Tuesday, investigators in Augusta County, Virginia — just west of Charlottesville — announced that Candi Royer, 42, and Travis Brown, 30, have both been indicted with aggravated and felony murder for the presumed death of 3-year-old Khaleesi Cuthriell.

Cuthriell’s biological mother, Amanda G. Arey, had put the child in the couple's care in October 2020, just days before beginning a prison sentence for violating probation, according to the News-Leader. By February 2021, “she was gone,” according to the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office.

In August 2020, Brown was charged with assault and battery for allegedly attacking Royer after she attempted to obtain an order of protection against him, the News-Leader reported.

Police handouts of Candi Royer and Travis Brown

Royer was then reported missing by her family on Sept. 3, 2021 and the Augusta County Sheriff's Office put out a press release announcing her status, indicating that she might be with Brown. The following day, “Khaleesi's mother reported that Khaleesi was in the care of Candi Royer and Travis Brown,” Augusta County Sheriff Donald Smith said on Tuesday.

Investigators have suspected the couple of killing the child since Sept. 12, when they were arrested 250 miles away at Knights Inn motel in South Greensburg, Pennsylvania — just outside of Pittsburgh. 

On Sept. 20, Virginia State Police search and recovery vehicles were seen at a property in Waynesboro where Royer and Brown had lived and, the following day, police announced Khaleesi's death, though her body was not recovered.

"Investigators from the sheriff’s office and the Virginia State Police have interviewed both suspects over the past week," a statement from police said on Sept. 21. "The investigation has revealed Khaleesi Cuthriell died while in the care of Travis Brown and Candi Royer."

They also said that Royer wasn't missing in September, as her family reported, but alleged "it has been determined that she was a willing participant with Brown in their crime spree across the Commonwealth of Virginia and into Pennsylvania." Brown had been charged with carjacking, strangulation, grand larceny and breaking and entering at the time of his extradition from Pennsylvania, according to the News Leader, in addition to the felony child abuse charges both faced at that time.

Cuthriell’s body has still not been found; it's not exactly clear how investigators believe she was killed.

A police handout of Khaleesi Cuthriell

In addition to murder, the couple has now been charged with unlawfully concealing a dead body, conspiracy to commit aggravated murder, conspiracy to commit child abuse and conspiracy to conceal a dead body. Brown has also been accused of child abuse and neglect.

It’s not clear if either Royer or Brown have lawyers.

"When harm comes to a child in this community, we will leave no stone unturned," Smith said on Tuesday.

At the press conference, he said couldn't discuss further details of the case.

"These folks are gonna to be tried one day, and it's incredibly important to me that ... the integrity of that trial is just unimpeachable," he said.

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