Murder Conviction in Torture of 3-Year-Old Khaleesi Cuthriell, Whose Body Has Never Been Found

Khaleesi Cuthriell
Virginia toddler Khaleesi Cuthriell was beaten, burned with cigarettes and thrown in the trash, according to authorities.Handouts

Jurors deliberated less than four hours before convicting Travis Brown of murder in the horrific death of toddler Khaleesi Cuthriell. Some wept as the verdicts were read in court.

A Virginia man has been convicted of murder in the torture death of 3-year-old Khaleesi Cuthriell, after jurors saw horrific images and videos of the toddler crying, with bruises, cuts and cigarette burns covering her emaciated body.

Jurors deliberated less than four hours Wednesday before convicting Travis Brown of all charges against him, including aggravated murder, felony murder and child abuse.

Some jurors wept as the verdicts were read in an August County courthouse.

Brown, 31, and his girlfriend, Candi Jo Royer, 42, took custody of the child in October 2020, when the baby's mother went to jail for violating parole, authorities said.

Royer has also been charged with murder. She has pleaded not guilty. Her trial is scheduled to begin in October.

Brown's trial began Monday, with the court hearing police questioning him in September 2021. Brown first denied the child was dead, then later said Khaleesi had killed herself by ramming her head into a door frame.

"It's what she did, man," Brown told two investigators from the Augusta County Sheriff's Office.

Brown, an acknowledged meth user with a string of drug-related convictions, also told the deputies the child was suicidal, possessed, and "liked to be smacked."

He also told investigators the toddler was sexually aware, masturbated and was prone to falling.

Videos and photos taken from social media and the couple's phones showed Khaleesi's body was already covered in bruises, cuts and burns less than three months after moving into their home, the court was told.

Prosecutor Tim Martin showed a video taken of Khaleesi on Jan. 12, 2021, saying that may have been the child's last day alive.

The footage showed a frightened, confused and crying Khaleesi in a bathtub surrounded by her own feces. She is emaciated, nearly bald and unable to stand up straight as Royer is heard berating the child.

Khaleesi was last seen by members of her family nearly three years ago. 

Authorities said they believe the child was dead by January 2021. Her body has never been found.

Travis Brown, Candi Jo Royer - Handout

Brown told investigators he passed out after Khaleesi slammed her head into the doorframe, the court heard. 

After he woke up, Brown said he left the child's body on the floor until the next day. Then he wrapped her remains in a blanket and put them in the trash.

"I was scared," he told investigators. "I didn't know what to do."

In closing arguments Wednesday, prosecutor Martin told the jury, “Travis Brown and his girlfriend tortured Khaleesi to death."

The little girl was reported missing in September 2021, by her incarcerated mother, Amanda Arey, who told jail guards and authorities that she had entrusted Khaleesi's care to Royer, her friend, and Royer's boyfriend Brown.

The alarmed mother told guards she had seen a news reports on the prison television that Royer had been reported missing.

Arey said she had been afraid for months because she couldn't reach the couple.

"The mother was talking to Royer and Brown from the jail," Augusta County Sheriff Don Smith told Inside Edition Digital last year. But, "they stopped communicating with her, stopped taking her calls, stopped taking her text messages. Everything went black." 

Royer was reported missing by her family, who said they hadn't been able to reach her, Smith said.

After entering Royer's information into law enforcement databases, Smith learned that Royer was not missing, but rather was with her boyfriend and both were wanted for a series of crimes, including stealing a car, passing bad checks and drug-related offenses, he said.

The couple was arrested at a motel in Pennsylvania on Sept. 12, 2021 by state police and members of the U.S. Marshal's Office. Meth, drug paraphernalia and stolen checks were found in their room but "Khaleesi is nowhere to be found," Smith said.

Both pleaded guilty to all charges against them in Pennsylvania, including possession of methamphetamine and stolen checks. They were sentenced to two months to one year in prison, and extradited to Virginia, where child abuse charges had been filed against them involving Khaleesi.

The couple was indicted on murder charges in May 2022.

Brown is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 8. Under state law, the only possible sentence for an aggravated murder conviction is life in prison with no chance of parole, authorities said.

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