Note: we are republishing this story in light of recent reports that show child abuse has significantly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. More on this here: https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2021-10-08/study-confirms-rise-in-child-abuse-during-covid-pandemic
33-year-old Jillian Tait pleaded guilty to third degree murder in the 2014 death of her three-year-old son to avoid the death penalty.
Tait also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, endangering the welfare of children, assault, and related charges.
Even though she has escaped the death penalty, Tait is still facing 64 to 128 years in prison.
Tait and her 24-year-old boyfriend, Gary Lee Fellenbaum III, were arrested in 2014 and charged with abusing three-year-old Scott McMillan and his six-year-old brother.
According to authorities, Scott had been punched and beaten for weeks, with both sharp and blunt objects. The young child had also been strapped to a chair with electrical tape and beaten until he fell unconscious.
Tait and Fellenbaum also allegedly punched the boys, beat them with whips, metal rods, and frying pans. They also suspended the boys upside down by their feet and proceeded to assault them.
Following attacks in Fellenbaum’s mobile home in West Caln Township, Pennsylvania, from November 2 to November 4, 2014, McMillan finally succumbed on November 4.
The couple had beaten the boy unconscious, put him on an uninflated air mattress, then left the home to go car shopping. According to officials, the two bought pizza and had sex as the boy lay dying.
First assistant district attorney Michael Noone told County Judge William P. Mahon that prosecutors had reached a plea deal with Tait because she accepted responsibility for her actions and agreed to testify against Fellenbaum.
Prosecutors stated that Tait's attack against McMillan may have caused his death, but it was Fellenbaum's attack that actually killed him.
Fellenbaum was charged with first degree murder, third degree murder, criminal homicide, and other charges related the boy’s death, and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Fellenbaum's estranged wife, Amber, lived in the mobile home when McMillan was attacked, and she was arrested for not reporting the abuse. She finally called 911 on November 4 after the boy had been unresponsive for hours, authorities said.
Amber pled guilty to two counts each of endangering the welfare of children and reckless endangerment and agreed to testify against Fellenbaum during his trial.
She is facing a maximum prison sentence of nine to 18 years.
Tait and Amber will be sentenced after Fellenbaum's trial concludes.
The three are held at Chester County Prison. Tait and Fellenbaum are ineligible for bail, while Amber is being held on a $500,000 bail.
Sources: Daily Mail