We all want to believe that we live in a civilized society where horrors can't exist or go unnoticed if occurring right under our noses. What we don't want to think about are the times where people are left asking, "how could we not know?"
This scenario is what is playing out in Annville, Pennsylvania where neighbors are left asking themselves "How did we not know?" and even saying, "I wish I only knew a little bit. I could have stopped it."
What they didn't know was that there was a 12-year-old boy by the name of Maxwell Schollenberger that was being confined to a bedroom without access to any sunlight or even a view of the outside world where he was fed nothing but scraps and left to exist, covered in his own feces with only a bed.
He had never gone to school, and did not see a doctor. Few people even knew of his existence.
Max had been in the care of his father, 41-year-old Scott Schollenberger Jr., and his fiancée 53-year-old Kimberly Maurer since the age of 2. According to the Times Union, authorities stated that the couple denied that Max had any mental or physical disorders.
Maurer is said to have told investigators that she was the primary care-giver as Schollenberger "expressed extreme frustration" towards the boy and was allegedly afraid of hurting him.
Max's biological mother did not have custody and for undisclosed reasons, did not even visit the him. She has been in limited contact with investigators.
Max's death came to light after a neighbor called 911 on May 26th.
"To protect the investigation and the neighbor's identity, all I'm going to say is that it's a neighbor to the residents who had been in contact with one of the defendants," Lebanon County District Attorney Pier Hess Graf said.
That same day police responded to the residence and found Max.
"This is a little boy, 12 years old, who died alone in the dark, covered in his own human waste. He's a little boy that died starving, that died internally bleeding, that died suffering," Graf said. "The images of that child in the bed, the way that he died, those images go home with you. They go home with me. They go home with our investigators. We will carry this forever."
It is reported that Max weighed merely 47.5 pounds at the time of his death, half of what is normal for a boy his age, and that he was a full eight inches shorter than the average.
“By the time of his death he was in that room 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Graf said.
An autopsy determined his cause of death was "blunt force head trauma complicating starvation/malnutrition."
Three other children were in the home, all under the age of 5.
"The other children in the home all appeared to be happy, healthy and well cared for," Graf said. "They went to school. They went to the doctor. They did the typical things between a parent and a child."
They are now in the care of Children and Youth Services.
According to Graf, those children disclosed that when it came to Max they “were told to ignore him and not talk to him,” and that when an adult would enter his room he “would scream and he would cry.”
Graf disclosed that the investigation into Max's death took so long because they wanted it to be "as through and as locked down as possible."
Both Schollenberger and Maurer are in custody without bond in the Lebanon County Correctional Facility on charges of criminal homicide, criminal conspiracy, endangering the welfare of children, and criminal conspiracy to endanger the welfare of children.
They are scheduled to appear in court on September 24 at 8:00 am before Magisterial District Judge John W. Ditzler for their preliminary hearing.