Mother doesn’t believe her son beat boy to death |

Mother doesn’t believe her son beat boy to death

The Associated Press

ATGLEN — The mother of a man accused of striking his girlfriend’s 3-year-old with a frying pan, hanging him upside down and hitting him, and whipping him with a metal rod said Friday that her son is a good kid and she doesn’t believe he beat the boy to death.

“I believe he’s being railroaded,” Paula Fellenbaum said outside her parents’ home in central Pennsylvania. “He liked kids. He never had an issue. I don’t understand it at all.”

Yet authorities said her 23-year-old son, Gary Fellenbaum, and Jillian Tait both acknowledged repeatedly hitting Tait’s young child in a mobile home outside Coatesville, about 35 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Both face murder charges.

The Chester County district attorney described the case as “an American horror story,” saying weeks of escalating abuse ended in three days of systematic torture.

Fellenbaum severely beat Scott McMillan for refusing to eat toast 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.

As Scott lay dying Tuesday, officials say, the couple went car shopping, picked up a pizza and then took a nap. Fellenbaum later “expressed remorse” for Scott’s death, police said.

The victim’s father, Loren McMillan, has been living out of state but is traveling back to the area, according to officials and relatives.

Loren McMillan’s sister, Tera Kluxen, said Friday her family had no idea the boy was in danger. They now want custody of Scott’s 6-year-old brother, who authorities say showed signs of abuse and was placed with unspecified other relatives.

“We’re going to do everything we can to get him back into our family and get him safe,” said Kluxen of Lancaster.

Kluxen said her brother and Tait, 31, never married and broke up about a year ago. Loren McMillan then moved to Kansas with their mother, she said.

Kluxen, who has three children of her own, hadn’t seen her nephews in about a year. But Tait “really seemed to love those kids” and regularly posted photos of the boys on her Facebook page until about a month ago, Kluxen said.

She described the older child as a smart and funny boy. Scott looked a lot like his father and was a happy baby, Kluxen said.

She noted her parents had frequently helped her brother and Tait financially, and “anybody in the family would have swept those kids up in a second” if they knew there was a problem.

“We just had no clue,” Kluxen said. “What kind of people do things like that? There’s not even words for it.”

Through tears, Paula Fellenbaum described her son as a hard worker who was “trying to make his way in the world.” She said although she hadn’t seen him in a few weeks, Gary Fellenbaum had recently visited his grandparents and nobody suspected any problems.

Shannon Taylor of West Caln Township said Tait was a “normal, goofy, everyday funny girl” when they regularly hung out several years ago.

“I never would have pictured her hurting a fly,” Taylor said.

Yet when she saw Tait working at Wal-Mart two or three weeks ago, Tait was “pretty rough looking,” Taylor said Friday. “She just looked like she just didn’t care about herself really.”

Tait and Fellenbaum had moved into a West Caln mobile home about a month ago with Amber Fellenbaum, his estranged wife. Amber Fellenbaum called 911 on Tuesday after Scott stopped breathing, authorities said. She’s charged with child endangerment for failing to help sooner.

Reached by phone Friday, Amber Fellenbaum’s mother declined to comment.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.