Pennsylvania state police arrested Melissa Keister, 37, of New Columbia on Monday September 16th on charges of endangering the welfare of a child, a felony and misdemeanor counts of neglect of care and recklessly endangering another person after an investigation that has spanned about a year.
In her first court appearance later that same day, Keister waived her right to a preliminary trial and was free on $15,000 unsecured bond. She's scheduled to appear in Union County Court before President Judge Michael T. Hudock on October 28th at 8:30 am.
In April of last year, a girl that has been placed into the Keister home through the foster system was removed from the care of Melissa and her husband. While Pennsylvania state police have not said whether or not they are investigating the husband in this matter, it'a difficult to believe that he would have been unaware.
Keister agreed to a voluntary interview in April 2018 after the girl was removed from her care. During that interview, she told Trooper Adam Depauw of the Milton police station that she and her husband were the only two that could feed the girl as the mental illness she had prevented her from bonding with anyone else.
While the abuse is said to have occurred in 2015, police did not begin their investigation until last April after a call came into ChildLine referral, the state mandated reporting agency for suspected child abuse and neglect from a neighbor of Keister. During the course of the investigation, police interviewed two mobile health aids and a mobile therapist that were providing care for the child, as well as finally the child herself.
According to the arrest documents, Kaiser is said to have told one of the professionals that the girl's disorder caused even clothing to be a problem for her so she was not allowed even pajamas. She also said that the girl's mental disordered caused behavioral problems such as trying to eat her mattress before it was removed from her room. Kaiser also allegedly told the therapist that the girl could not sleep as noises caused by her disordered disturbed her too much.
The girl, after being removed from Keister's care and into the custody of Union County Children and Youth, was taken to the Child Advocacy Center in Sunbury on three different occasions to be interviewed. The first time, was just about the time that she was finally removed from the home and was reported to be so underweight that she was described as motionless.
Over the next month though, she flourished in her new environment and gained about 20 pounds. She was described at the second interview as being almost unrecognizable. After the third interview which occurred in late June, Trooper Depauw spoke directly to the child.
During the course of the interviews, the girl told of being fed as little as once a week and resorting to eating a frozen pizza out of the basement freezer. She told also that some of the other children in the home would smuggle food to her and slip it under the door of her room, which was fitted with an alarm and she was not allowed to leave unless necessary.
The girl reported being forced to drink vinegar, on at least 50 occasions, until she vomited when she was found to have eaten without Keister's approval.
She told of being forced to sleep within a square that had been taped on the floor in the nude. She was allowed neither clothing nor blankets, and had to sleep either on her back or side.
Initially the girl denied that Keister had physically abused her, but later alleged that she had banged her head into the corner of a desk upwards of 20 times. She said she'd also been hit with Keister's hands, a backscratcher, and paddle on different occasions.