American Horror Story

WARNING:  Graphic Images

A three year old boy was beaten to death by his mother and her boyfriend this week. Prosecutors have called his death an American horror story.

Scotty McMillan was tortured for three days by Jillian Tait and Gary Fellenbaum [1]. The child was hung by his feet, and struck with a whip. He was tied to a chair, punched, and beaten with a metal rod. His head was put through a wall.

The nurses who ultimately saw the little boy’s wounds wept. Scotty was gone by then.

We can discuss statistics. The rate of physical abuse is up. Three quarters of the most seriously abused children seen in hospitals in 2009 were on Medicaid, suggesting that poverty is a major stressor on families [2].

We can discuss failures by the system. Scotty’s six year old brother, also regularly abused, attended school. Despite a legal duty to report suspected abuse, no teacher or school counselor contacted authorities.

We can discuss spirituality and moral responsibility. Surely, this was a violation of the laws of God and man. Any mother’s natural instinct would have been to protect her children, rather than inflict harm on them.

We may never know what led Tait and Fellenbaum to act in this inhuman manner. Were they once abused themselves or witnesses to abuse? Were they psychopaths without empathy or sadists excited by the pain of their victims? Whatever the answer, nothing excuses their actions.

Ultimately, the rest of us must remain vigilant for the signs of abuse in children, even those not our own. We may be their only hope.

A list of 10 frequent signs of child abuse can be found at the Safe Horizon website

[1] NBC 10, “Mom, Boyfriend Beat Boy, 3, to Death inside Chester County Home: Prosecutors” by Dan Stamm, 11/6/14,

[2] CBS News, “Serious Injuries from Child Abuse on Rise, Especially in Infants” by Ryan Jaslow, 10/1/12,


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Filed under Child Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Justice, Law, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Poverty, Religion

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