In this true crime podcast episode,, we discuss the tragic case of Maxwell Schollenberger who was neglected, tortured, and murdered by his father Scott Schollenberger, and his father’s fiancee, Kimberly Mauer
“Around noon on May 26, 2020, police in Annville, Pennsylvania discovered the emaciated body of 12-year-old Maxwell Schollenberger in his family’s home at 30 South White Oak Street.
Max was found naked and smeared with feces, slumped across a filthy bed in a bedroom with feces caked on every surface. The human waste covering the room was so old, it had begun to grow mold. The bedroom in which he was held captive had no lights, and the shades covering the windows had been secured closed with duct tape. The bedroom door was locked from the outside with three metal hooks, and the windows were secured shut with screws. “
Throughout this episode, we discuss the case and advocate for justice, law reform, and awareness to end child abuse and neglect. Sit back, listen, and join the family!
Kelley Richey, Julia Avery
Julia Avery 00:15
Welcome back to The Family Ties podcast. I’m Julia Avery. And this is my sister and co host, Kelly, Richie.
Kelley Richey 00:22
How you all, Kelly here. Thank you for joining us again today. We really appreciate it. We’re excited to have you joining us.
Julia Avery 00:29
Kelley Richey 00:31
Before we get started though, Julia, I would like to invite each and every one of our listeners or watchers to subscribe to our YouTube channel, like our videos, and share your thoughts and comments with us.
Julia Avery 00:44
Also, for those of us that listen to us via our podcast, please rate and subscribe. Wherever you find your pods. We welcome your feedback, as well as your suggestions and case recommendations. So please, post way.
Kelley Richey 00:59
Absolutely. So Julia, we’re doing things a little bit different today. We’re, we’re trying to kind of bring you guys along with some visuals as well as the information on this case. So Julia is gonna introduce what we’re talking about today. And I’m gonna try very hard with my minimal tech abilities to bring you guys along visually as well. So, um, let’s see here. Julia, do you want to bring us into what we’re talking about today?
Julia Avery 01:33
Yes. So today’s case, is in regards to Maxwell Shellenberger. He was a 12 year old boy found weighing under 50 pounds, was dead. And they could lying in his own feces by authorities on May 26 of 2020. So this is very recent. He was malnourished and starving and was held captive for years in a locked room. It was never allowed out was kept separate from the rest of his siblings. You could not see inside or outside the room, because the window in there was shattered, and nailed shut and the curtains. There were curtains inside, so covering anything nobody could see in nobody could see out. There were bolts and locks on his door to keep him inside. And the room was devoid of any toys or furniture, with exception to the bed. Reports indicate that Maxwell hadn’t seen a doctor in over 10 years. So he was two years old. The last time he was seen by Dr. Maxwell was robbed of an education was kept out of school. He was obviously robbed of love and affection or any human connection. He only knew sadness, filth, hunger, and thirst. There are so many ways to describe this crime are the words that come to mind are neglect, torture, starvation, withholding water, physical abuse, and absolutely inhumane conditions. So yeah.
Kelley Richey 03:28
So on that note, this brings us to our second point, so the cause of death was a homicide, obviously. So being found naked on his bed on the second floor of their house, Maxwell and the bed were completely covered in his feces. And there were clear claw marks in the bedding from his struggle. So it was not me it was pretty violent. I mean, this whole little boy’s life was full of violence and sadness. The medical examiner revealed that Maxwell was severely malnourished had very little muscle mass and was a mere 47 and a half pounds. That’s just think about that for a second. Um, 12 year olds, I mean, they should definitely weigh more than that. So to put this in perspective, the average weight and height for a 12 year old male is around 88 pounds and 58.7 inches tall, he was under underweight and under height. He died as a result of blunt force trauma to the head and body along with severe malnutrition. There was a plastic cut by his bed when he was found that held a mere inch of water. Julia, do you want to walk us into where this took place?
Julia Avery 04:53
Yeah, so this happens to be the part that bothers me the most So they were located in historic Danville, Pennsylvania on South White Oak Street. They lived in a two story home, very near schools town like downtown. And other neighbors. Like literally. Me neighbors right next door. I mean, screams can be heard so many things can be heard. I mean,
Kelley Richey 05:28
yeah, I mean, look at that they’re right on the road. They’re right on the main road there.
Julia Avery 05:33
It’s, it’s a good sized home, it’s got a good sized backyard. It’s very close to like all the hustle and bustle of the town, like, you know, when you look on the Google Maps, like you see the cars right there driving past right in front, like it’s so close. And he just to know that someone can just pass by that closely to something so horrific going on and have no idea. And if he knew how close he was to outside help, but he just couldn’t reach them. That is what absolutely bothers me the most about this whole thing is just how close he was.
Kelley Richey 06:24
Yeah, and not just that. So let’s discuss the other kids in the home. While the number of children who lived in the household is currently unspecified, we’ll show you a photo in a bit that kind of maybe indicates how many people might have been living there at one time. But one article states that max would be raised with showing burgers to older children from other relationships, and three children, Mauer and shollenberger had together which indicates five or so children. So the biological children of Scotland Kimberley were well cared for and healthy. It’s unclear how many children had been living there, but several other kids who lived in the home both from Mira Mar, Mars, ours mauers, Arras, Mars, previous relationship and biological children from shollenberger. And Maher appeared to be well adjusted and healthy. The district attorney of office reports, the other children in the house reported that Scott refused to let Maxwell out of the room slash prison, and that the couple would go into the boy’s room and they would hear screaming and crying. Some of the children even claimed to have had no knowledge of Maxwell’s existence. So Julie, I’m gonna let you describe the this next point. So and go into the charges as well. So tell us who we’re talking about as far as our perpetrators here. And, you know, what’s, what’s the detail? What’s
Julia Avery 07:59
the scoop? So, Maxwell’s dad Scott, at the time, all this one downs, 42 years old. His criminal history is, is fairly just kind of normal with the exception of you know, traffic and abandoned vehicles on the side of the highway. And now, he’s added to the list, criminal homicide and endangering welfare of children, parents, Guardian, other commits events from May 2020. And simple assault after the murder in July 2020. So after looking at a social media, it looks like he had other biological children with Kimberly the stepmother. The investigation also revealed that shollenberger expressed intense frustration towards the child victim Maxwell, and that he had indicated to other individuals that he was afraid of hurting him. Some of the documents stayed. So then
Kelley Richey 09:08
what we’re looking at here is shollenberger on the left and then mark on the right. So that was so his biological father’s on the left and his stepmother on the right.
Julia Avery 09:23
So, the charges against the couple they both face charges of criminal homicide conspiracy to commit criminal homicide, endangering the welfare of children and criminal conspiracy to endanger the welfare of children. The couple remained in Lebanon county prison on Monday without bail, awaiting a preliminary hearing on September 24. Before District Judge john w. ditzler, according to the online court dockets, son so
Kelley Richey 09:59
I I would like to kind of, I’m going to hopefully try and do some more digging and see what the what transpired with the September hearings. Because at this point, there’s really no, no news or indication of what exactly came out of that.
Julia Avery 10:16
It’s hard with these more recent cases, that deal with children. Because there’s a lot of stuff that seems to be confidential or, or hidden from the public.
Kelley Richey 10:29
Anytime it involves children, it’s, it’s it’s very difficult to get your hands on the information over what’s going on with proceedings
Julia Avery 10:37
and a case. And we’ve talked about it before where it to me, I think it does more damage than good. I understand the importance of keeping things with children confidential. However, when when there are so many of these things happening all the time, I think it is a disservice to them in the end, because, you know, people are ignorant, for sure of what’s going on. And that’s why, you know, a lot of people are kind of out of the loop and don’t don’t realize all the things that are happening. So it is by hiding it and protecting their their privacy and keeping it confidential. What this ends up doing is just, it’s almost like a cover up. I know that’s not the way it is intended. But that is just the way it comes across in the end, when so many people have no idea how much terror how many terrible things are happening. How many have the 1000s of children that are impacted, because this stuff isn’t exposed enough, you know? Yeah, two way street.
Kelley Richey 11:53
So let’s briefly talk about the mother, the biological mother, her name is Sara Kuhn. She lost custody of Maxwell when he was three years old. And reportedly the last time she saw him alive was when he was three. The last thing Maxwell asked her was, you’re still my mommy right? which breaks my heart. She said she believed Maxwell was in good hands, and that Scott was a good father, even though their relationship had been deteriorating. bots of jealousy involved here, when Maxwell returned home to Scott one night from being with Sarah. He was referring to Sarah’s boyfriend as daddy. And this threw Scott into an absolute rage. So he’s also a child, literally, this man. When Maxwell came down with the chickenpox, Sarah canceled a planned visit with Maxwell not wanting to expose her new baby to the virus. Just let me insert here. The fact that parents who’ve had children who can’t take care of children have to have someone else take care of them. The fact that we see this happen over and over again that the cycle is that people continue to have children, even when they’re like having to adopt them out.
Julia Avery 13:19
And then somehow they’re able to keep them.
Kelley Richey 13:21
And they’re able to at least keep having children. I heard I’m not even going to go into how I feel on that. That’s a separate topic for another time. But I just am amazed. So she couldn’t take care of Maxwell. But here’s a new baby for her to royally screw up their lives as well, both parents here,
Julia Avery 13:39
but it seems like she has custody of the second one.
Kelley Richey 13:42
Well, yes, but that’s not Scott’s child at this point. So I don’t know what that situation is on that side. But no,
Julia Avery 13:49
I just think it’s interesting how you’re not qualified to be a parent for one, but somehow you are for the other.
Kelley Richey 13:55
Yeah. And I’m not saying that. As a nation, we have the right to say, you know, you’re not allowed to have children or to in like, sterilize people. That is not what I’m suggesting at all.
Julia Avery 14:13
Just sit there, there obviously needs to be a solution. We just don’t know what that is.
Kelley Richey 14:18
Yeah, it’s it’s one of those things where the solution is just as problematic as the problem itself. And so it’s just like, I feel like there has to be something in place to protect future kids from this kind of abuse. But I don’t know what the answer is to that in our judicial system. I’m not even going to pretend to know. But so she, so she didn’t want to expose her new baby to the virus. And after this Scott cutter off from Maxwell entirely. Sarah would never see Maxwell again. She initially fought for max but was cut off by the courts, this time after failure to pay child support. So, I’m sure this new baby is gonna have a fantastic life too. When an investigator called her on June 10, to ask her some questions, she was informed that her son was dead. The investigator was unable to give her the cause of death, or total details because the investigation was still being conducted. In the 15 days after his death. They told me, he had already been cremated, I didn’t get to see my baby one last time, Kuhn said, the last image I have of him is a picture on some other woman’s Facebook page, when he was maybe five. It’s a picture of them as a family with all three of their children in the foreground with Maxwell in the back, like an afterthought, we already showed you that image with the other kids blurred out just to protect their identities, you know, that they’re, they’ve survived this and they already have a tough road ahead of them of recovery and killing. So we don’t want to exploit any of their their faces. So, incredibly, Scott and Kimberly spent the entire summer out free while the investigation was being conducted on this. That’s another little side note.
Julia Avery 16:16
So I cannot there’s the amount of evidence against them is just insurmountable. Like how, how did that happen? Like they Firstly,
Kelley Richey 16:31
the kid is, the kid is found dead in like, he’s been starved. He’s been water has been kept from him. And he’s, like, been thoroughly beaten. What part of that seems accidental or like, well, we just need to wait until we have all of the facts. It’s like they
Julia Avery 16:52
they wouldn’t know who and they know the who it’s not like a murder mystery, where it’s like, I don’t know who done it. It could have been anyone. The suspects range is huge. It’s like no there. They had bolted him in their own home. They were the only known and available perpetrators. Okay. Like,
Kelley Richey 17:14
I just don’t understand how, okay, if they are allowed to be out free, you know, while the investigation is being conducted, why on earth would they be allowed to keep the kids because they were able to keep their other three remaining children. So life just went on for them as normal. This is astounding to me.
Julia Avery 17:33
Kelley Richey 17:34
okay. All right. All right. So according to an article titled titled Max, Shaolin burgers, Mother, I thought Maxwell was in good hands. by Kim strong of the Lebanon Daily News. It says that during that time, shollenberger started talking to Coon initially messaging her on Facebook, eventually spending hours on the phone with her. This was after the bait that Maxwell was found dead. They would, he was reaching out to her more. And I mean, could that be guilt? Could it be him trying to cover up? I mean, what’s the reason? Or is he wanting to experience the pain she’s in? Due to his own sadistic pleasure, like the these are, of course questions. So he was telling her that he had nothing to do with this. Who’s you know, Sarah had still not been told of the long term torture maksud injured and what killed him? He did tell me that the coroner had slipped a detail to him that max had a fractured ocular socket. I thought maybe someone hit him. Okay. So it was a detail that shollenberger clung to blaming Kimberly Maher, for his death, saying that she would get mad when shollenberger spent time with Max. So he’s feeding her the story that you know, he just it’s the jealous wife who’s doing this? You know, he had no idea of any of it.
Julia Avery 19:11
This is like damage control. Yeah, almost. He’s trying to create a narrative that might help him out in court.
Kelley Richey 19:22
Yeah. She said I could tell he was digging for some sort of forgiveness. But she, Sarah couldn’t understand why if Max was in danger, that shallenberger didn’t contact her and offer her custody. I said I hold you both responsible for this. Yeah. Yeah. So she was also interviewed. Sarah was interviewed by suffer the little children podcast, which is on episode 32, which I would highly recommend everyone go listen to wonderful podcast and we hope to be kind of teaming up with them in the future. But regardless of that, Sara met Scott in her 20s when she started working at Ruby Tuesday’s in Lebanon, he worked in the kitchen, they started dating and she was pregnant with Maxwell within three months to pick it up from there, Julia.
Julia Avery 20:16
Sure. So in this same article Koon and our son moved in with a relative, when max just to shollenberger walked into the house and took the boy, Kuhn said that someone had led shallenberger to believe she was being irresponsible. I said,
Kelley Richey 20:36
could be fair,
Julia Avery 20:38
could be fair, but the thing is, like, if he was able to do that, then then he was definitely able to do that with the next lady.
Kelley Richey 20:47
Mm hmm. Yeah, yeah.
Julia Avery 20:49
True. You know, so he can’t try to act like he’s there is nothing he could do. Yeah, no, because he’s done it done at once before when it was necessary, right? Um, anyway, so she a quote from her, she said, that was the beginning of the end for me. She lost her job, then started self harming and considered ending her life. She remembered that she had started over before, and would again, it took time, but she got into a woman’s shelter in Lebanon, by this time pregnant with Max’s younger half brother. She couldn’t return to Lebanon because of the warrant out for her arrest due to outstanding child support these unpaid and accruing. So, drugs, woman shelter, self harming financial trouble troubles, they’re kind of part of the reason that it seems she lost custody.
Julia Avery 21:52
we did find her social media. And one of the likes that were public on our page was that she likes to suffer the little children podcast. So, um, it’s another one of those parents and outside of the situation, that seems, um, because of their first hand experience, they’re now interested in the issue and how it affects other children. So that’s, that’s what hit me. Yeah.
Kelley Richey 22:24
Um, would you mind walking us through
Julia Avery 22:34
this next bit?
Kelley Richey 22:37
And just kind of go on until we get to, you know, the end of discussing the home.
Julia Avery 22:50
Yeah. So, um, the impacts of Maxwell’s death on the officers involved in the public community. Start with sit here. Who is this quote from this from his attorney?
Kelley Richey 23:06
All right, I believe so.
Julia Avery 23:09
So today marks the first step in a long path of justice for this little boy, Max shollenberger existed. I will not call this living in a state of perpetual suffering. He existed in the most egregious and valid conditions. You remained starved, locked away, and isolated until his killing. This child never looked forward to his first day of school. Look candles on a birthday cake or experience to the unconditional love of family. This was said by the district attorney according to Fox 43 News.
Kelley Richey 23:44
Look at that little sweet face though.
Julia Avery 23:47
It’s just who such a cutie
Kelley Richey 23:50
I mean, I don’t care Well, maybe even if your kid isn’t cute like i don’t i don’t care that never excuses behavior like that. But like, How could you do that today? Why what?
Julia Avery 24:04
Just so precious like
Kelley Richey 24:06
so let’s just also point out Julia that, okay. Max went or not max Scott went to Sara’s to remove this kid from a situation that was like, unsafe or whatever. And then he locks him in a room for years. And intentionally starves beats tortures this little child. So the question is, is what is I mean, there’s never a good enough reason to explain why someone would do this, but I just want to know why you would exert your energy to make a young life so miserable. Like what is that doing for you? Like I want to know the psychology behind like, what is this doing to improve your life? I mean, because obvious So you get some sick benefit from it. I mean, we as humans tend to do things in a, you know, for reasons that benefit us in some way. So what’s, what’s your secondary benefit here? for holding this child captive and making his life a living misery? What
Julia Avery 25:20
do you know, I sort of think that he held on to him because, you know, once he had taken him from Sara, he, you know, and there is obviously jealousy involved at the beginning, you know, when Maxwell had made comments about Sarah’s boyfriend. So his thing was control, he needed control. And so putting him in that room, it wasn’t necessarily about his safety to me, it was just needing to be the one who had control. And if because if it was for his safety, he probably would have tried to get them back to Sarah, if his new girlfriend had such a problem with him. You know, so I think it was just all about having to have control. I think that’s all it was, you know,
Kelley Richey 26:19
I mean, at this point, all we can do is just do pure conjecture, right. So according to another recent article, the Lebanon child abuse advocates aiming for broader awareness in wake of heartbreaking cases by Matthew Toth for the Lebanon Daily News, he reports that local community groups are hoping to answer some of those questions this month with the pinwheel project I recently shared because April was Child Abuse Awareness Month. And so I posted a link to the pinwheel project, which you know, you can get involved in no matter what state you are in, it’s mainly there, they set out pinwheels one pinwheel for each child in their, their town or their area that you know, was a victim either died or was a tragic victim of abuse or neglect. So it’s a way to educate residents on the signs of abuse and what they can do about it. So it is important that we all get involved with things of this nature. But Alyssa corretto, sexual assault resource and counseling center of Lebanon, she is the president there, she said the goal is to saturate the community with information about child abuse, its impact and what the community can do about it. So like we always like to state, this is a community issue. This is something that we as citizens should be involved in. This is something that we should care about. Just think about my own Street, I think about it all the time, just the 80 something homes are 60 plus on my street alone, with children, how many of those children are being abused or neglected? And what am I doing to pay attention and when I see children make a mental note of what I think their situation is like, being more aware, being paying attention less you. So she says that if we can build a more supportive and trauma informed community that knows what to do, that isn’t afraid to act on behalf of the safety of children and supportive families, we are all going to be in a better place and feel like we can do something she said sa RCC and Lebanon children and youth services are hosting training events for community members and professionals on recognizing and reporting child abuse. This is great.
Julia Avery 28:53
I want to take some of those like, yeah,
Kelley Richey 28:57
let’s start like a challenge. Well, right now we’ll have the challenge between man Julia to get involved. So we’re going to look into our own communities, resources on this and see what we can do to take some courses. That way we can share with you what we learn. So my challenge is to you Julia, which one of us is going to be the first one to come back and have successfully done something. So To be continued. So it’s about empowering and educating. And that’s important. So this says that they host the events for community members and professionals for recognizing the signs of child abuse and the United Way community connections. We’ll also be hosting live stream discussions, Fridays at noon on Facebook starting April 2. So this past April, they just started doing these live streams. Maybe we look into that, like, yeah, we’ll share with you what we find. Julia, make a little written note for us to check back on that. Cuz that’s something that’s important, you know if we don’t have to leave our home so we can join a live stream and learn why the heck not this is our responsibility. Yeah, so there’s more to child abuse than just making a report or bringing an investigation. You also no need to build a supportive response for families so that we can prevent abuse from happening in the first place. Pareto says we want folks in our community to feel like they have the power to do something, and who and how to contact to help the family get connected and supported when something happens. an anvil resident, Pareto said it was heartbreaking to see the big child abuse cases coming out of the area. And she’s right to be alarmed because in February, I believe the same year so February of 2020, prosecutors filed 20 felony charges against Stephanie Angela Dunkin, 42 years old and her husband Robert john Dunkin 44 of the 2700 block of cedar run road, which is extremely close by the dunkin’s calculated and prolonged abuse included physical included physical punishment, depriving the children of food and water, heat and bathroom, privet privileges and trying to cover up their crimes according to prosecutors. So
Julia Avery 31:23
we also covered a case and we covered
Kelley Richey 31:25
this, this is the one of the Duncan’s This is exactly the case. So, and there, they live very close by to this. So in the same region within
Julia Avery 31:36
except there’s a little bit more off the road just a little bit. It wasn’t like directly in the hustle and bustle.
Kelley Richey 31:43
Yeah, I mean, the Duncan’s house is less than three miles from the shollenberger. Home. Yeah, just pointing that out. And Julia, I don’t remember the episode number of that. But if you want to go back in our catalogs, and listen to that, we talked about the the five Duncan children that were abused and severe, I mean, just severely tragic. But I think it’s important that we know about these things, and we share them and I want everyone to get educated and uncomfortable enough to do something. So Julie, would you like to finish this one up?
Julia Avery 32:19
Absolutely. So um, prorata also said that to know that we as community members can do something about it goes a really long way, and helping our community to heal from these big cases. She said, the city of Lebanon and Bill Township, myerstown, and PAL Myra, have been identified in the United Way’s Alice report, as at the highest risk of child abuse based on poverty, and survivor level income households. So that’s, that’s great. So again, that kind of stuff doesn’t happen unless there’s awareness.
Kelley Richey 32:58
Julia Avery 32:59
We’re posting 200 pinwheels in each of the communities in science, talking about the number of children that were impacted, in 2026 100 pinwheels
Kelley Richey 33:10
in their area alone.
Julia Avery 33:13
And that is just in one year, Holy Year of 2020.
Kelley Richey 33:19
Ah, I wonder what here’s the thing is, I wonder what record what like, um, percentage of their community so like, where are they drawing the boundaries? How, what is this measuring? Like, where did those 200 children fall? Is that in the Asheville township area? Is it just in like,
Julia Avery 33:36
so it looks like by county,
Kelley Richey 33:39
so they’re saying that the city of Lebanon and Ville township myerstown, and Palmyra have been identified as the highest risk of child abuse. So Are those the communities that they’re including in that 200? Mind blowing, because that’s, that’s the regardless, if it’s one air, if it’s just the township, or if it’s all those communities, regardless, that’s insanely high. So that would probably if we had an accurate measure of each and every community or county, our actual rates of abuse survivors would be, or even deaths would go up exponentially. So we’ve shared with you before, that there’s between four to seven children that die every single day due to child abuse and neglect. That’s just what’s been reported. And then during 2020 with COVID, I think that number has shot up and we who knows how long it’ll be until we have an accurate picture of what that is. Yeah. Because abuse happens in isolation. Clearly, all these situations are, you know, they’re isolating the child from the public from their community and to cover up this abuse. So who knows how many other Uncharted cases that we just don’t know about due to 2020 I’m just, I mean, it breaks my heart just to think about it. No, it’s
Julia Avery 35:10
really a take it away. It’s gonna take years before we have any idea of the actual the magnitude of that. Yeah, from last year. So residents of that area, the Asheville and Lebanon area can learn more about the Lebanon county pinwheel project events at the events Facebook page
Kelley Richey 35:32
will link that
Julia Avery 35:34
the Department of Human Services operates a 24 seven hotline about the welfare of a child and to report suspected child abuse child line can be reached at 800-932-0313.
Kelley Richey 35:52
I’ll repeat that they can be reached at 800-932-0313. So Julian, I would like to thank you for joining us for today’s episode, we urge you all to donate or join local causes in your communities that are working to fight for better children’s rights. If you don’t know where to start, please visit our website for resources and click on the donate page where we have links to some of our favorite child advocacy programs such as and can like and child abuse now, and the Coalition for Responsible home education.
Julia Avery 36:27
Yeah. So this is like this is all of our responsibilities again, like it is like Kelly said it’s a community thing. It’s all of our responsibilities to stand up for the rights and lives of children everywhere. This is a fight that has absolutely nothing to do with politics with partisan politics, simply the rights for children to be safe, loved, cared for. Anyway, so thank you and join the family.