A Pennsylvania couple went car shopping, bought pizza and took a nap as her unresponsive 3-year-old son lay dying after weeks of relentless torture that included being hung upside down and beaten, officials said Thursday.
Jillian Tait, 31, and Gary Lee Fellenbaum, 23, were charged Thursday with murder in the death of Tait’s son, Scott McMillan. They are accused of laughing as the boy was hung upside down and whipped, striking him repeatedly with a frying pan, and eventually beating him to death.
Chester County District Attorney Thomas Hogan called the sickening accusations “an American horror story.”
The couple met working at Wal-Mart and last month moved in together, along with Fellenbaum’s estranged wife and three children — Tait’s 6- and 3-year-old sons and the Fellenbaums’ 11-month-old daughter. The six lived in a mobile home park in West Caln Township, Chester County, about 35 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
The three adults told authorities “that Scott McMillan had been punched and beaten with blunt and sharp objects, whipped, taped to a chair with electrical tape and beaten, hung up by his feet and beaten, and suffered other acts of violence,” police said in affidavits released Thursday.
Amber Fellenbaum, 21, was charged with child endangerment for allegedly failing to help the toddler. She ultimately called 911 Tuesday night, authorities said. By then, Scott had been unresponsive for hours, and had been put in a shower for more than 30 minutes by his mother and her boyfriend, investigators said. When the boy failed to awaken, they placed him on an uninflated air mattress and went out shopping, authorities said.
Fellenbaum had severely beaten the boy for refusing to eat toast both Monday and Tuesday morning, authorities said. The “discipline” included throwing him against a wall, knocking him off a chair with a punch and then taping him to the chair to keep him upright for more beatings, police said.
It was not immediately clear if any of the adults have lawyers.
Tait told police that she also took part in the abuse and saw the scars on her younger son, court documents said. Her older son also showed signs of abuse, authorities said.
She and Fellenbaum are being held without bail after their arraignments Thursday. They are scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Nov. 14.