Before I begin this article, I want to make it clear that the facts presented here in no way indicate my endorsement of a political candidate or party.
Incumbent Republican Pennsylvania State Representative Frank Ryan, who serves the 101st Legislative District encompassing much of Lebanon County, was reelected last week for his third term, receiving approximately two thirds of the vote against his Democratic challenger, Calvin “Doc” Clements.
My reason for mentioning this is in no way political. Representative Ryan has met with grassroots advocates and pledged his support to crafting legislation in the name of Max Schollenberger, the 12-year-old boy who was found dead in May in his father and stepmother’s Annville home. Max had been restrained and confined in a dark bedroom for months and possibly longer; every surface of the room was covered in feces, and Max’s body was no longer able to process the little food he was provided. He was never enrolled in school and had not seen a doctor since he was last in the care of his mother almost ten years ago.
I spoke with Max’s biological mother, Sara, on a recent episode of Suffer the Little Children Podcast, where she discussed how Max’s (allegedly) narcissistic father, Scott Schollenberger, prevented her from seeing their son before essentially disappearing with the boy. Contrary to what has been reported by some media outlets, Sara never relinquished legal custody of her son.
Scott and his fiancee, Kimberly Maurer, also shared three younger children, who lived in the house where Max died but were found to be healthy and well cared for. Scott also had an older son from a previous relationship, while Kim had two older children, who sometimes stayed in the Annville home of their mother and Scott, as well.
Rep. Ryan, a retired Marine colonel, hopes to stiffen the penalties against those convicted of child abuse and neglect, but he also wants to change legislation to include measures to prevent future cases like Max’s.
On the October 29 episode of his “Frankly Speaking” podcast, Rep. Ryan mentioned another egregious case of child neglect, this one discovered in Palmyra. In July, 37-year-old Shannon M. Fies was charged with multiple offenses after a three-month investigation that began with the rescue of 27 Pomeranian dogs from a foul-smelling duplex home that was unfit for human habitation. The woman was being evicted due to foreclosure and contacted a dog rescue to surrender her dogs. When personnel from Pawsitively Pom Rescue arrived to retrieve the animals, neighbors informed them there was also a child inside the home. The rescue contacted Palmyra Borough Police, who arrived with Children and Youth Services workers and EMTs. In addition to 27 Pomeranians and Pomeranian mixes, amidst stacks of urine-filled soda bottles, floors covered in feces, and four feet of trash, rescuers also found an African grey parrot and an emaciated six-year-old boy, who was fortunately still alive.
Shannon Fies was charged with a felony count of child endangerment, misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment and simple assault, and a number of summary offenses for animal violations.
In his podcast episode, Rep. Ryan discussed the need to prevent families with children from going “off the grid,” as was the case with Scott Schollenberger and his fiance Kimberly Maurer, who allegedly moved from place to place to avoid allowing Max’s mother and other family members from inquiring about him. It is unknown how long Max was confined in the bedroom where he died of head trauma and starvation; the family moved into the Annville house in late 2017, but no photos appear to exist of Max past the age of approximately six or seven.
On his podcast, Rep. Ryan talked about trying to close loopholes that allow families to disappear the way the Schollenbergers did and finding ways to ensure children are seen and cared for. He stressed that family and friends are the best defense against children falling under the radar and said that while morality cannot be legislated, we are all responsible for ensuring the children in our lives are safe and well.
Rep. Ryan welcomes feedback from anyone with ideas about the legislation that will go into the Maxwell Schollenberger bill; he can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In other news regarding Max’s case, in October, Kimberly Maurer’s trial was scheduled to be held concurrently with that of Max’s father, Scott. Both Scott and Kim are scheduled for trial at 8:30 AM on February 22, 2021 in Lebanon County Court. They each face charges of homicide and conspiracy to commit homicide, both first degree felonies, and child endangerment and conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child, both second degree felonies.
Click here for my ongoing coverage of Max’s story.
Sources: LebTown, RepFrankRyan.com, Frankly Speaking with Frank Ryan podcast, York Daily Record