A Pennsylvania district attorney said on Dec. 31 he will seek the death penalty for a couple accused of beating the woman’s 3-year-old son to death.
The Daily Local News, an area paper, reports Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan formally notified 31-year-old Jillian Tait and her boyfriend, Gary Fellenbaum, 23, of his intentions at brief hearing on Dec. 31. He said the child’s young age and allegations that he was tortured led to the decision.
Tait and Fellenbaum have been charged with murder, child abuse, conspiracy and other crimes following the Nov. 4 death of Tait’s son, Scott McMillan, according to WGAL News. The two have pleaded not guilty.
Authorities say the couple, who lived in a trailer with Fellenbaum’s estranged wife, Amber Fellenbaum, abused the boy and his older brother over the course of three days.
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In a story from the Daily Mail, Hogan, referred to the case as “an American horror story.”
Hogan alleged that what started out as spankings turned into “concentrated, repeated, escalating abuse,” then “over three days he was systematically tortured and beaten to death.”
According to police affidavits, the adults living in the home told investigators “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.”
Authorities say McMillan’s older brother, who is 6 years old, told them the couple laughed while they beat and tortured the child.
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Investigators believe that after McMillan became unresponsive as a result of the beatings the couple placed him on an air mattress and went car shopping, bought pizza and took a nap.
Amber Fellenbaum eventually called authorities after growing concerned that the child had not moved for many hours. But it was too late.
She has been charged with child endangerment for failing to help the toddler.
Police say that at one point Gary Fellenbaum threw the child against a wall so hard that it left a hole in the drywall.
Hogan said investigators found no evidence that the couple had been using drugs or alcohol and that made the crime all the more disturbing.
“This is just evilness,” Hogan said.
Gary Fellenbaum and Tait remain in custody. They have waived a preliminary hearing. A trial has not yet been scheduled.