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Mother of Maxwell Schollenberger files lawsuit against Lebanon County officials over his death

The 12-year-old was found dead in his father's Annville home in May 2020. His mother claims his death could have been prevented had Children and Youth investigated.

LEBANON COUNTY, Pa. — Editor's note: The above video is from October 2020.

The mother of a 12-year-old Lebanon County boy who was found dead from what investigators call horrific abuse and neglect is suing Lebanon County officials in county court, contending her son died because they did nothing to ensure his safety.

Sara Coon, the mother of Maxwell Schollenberger, says in her lawsuit that Lebanon County Children & Youth Services could have saved her son if they had investigated reports of child abuse submitted by the child's grandparents.

She claims in her lawsuit that constituted a violation of her son's civil rights. The suit seeks unspecified financial damages.

Lebanon County officials are seeking to have the case moved to U.S. Middle District court, contending Coons' claims invoke federal law.

Scott Schollenberger Jr., Maxwell Schollenberger's father, and his fiancée Kimberly Maurer are charged with homicide in connection to the child's death.

Scott Schollenberger Jr. had legal custody of his son, who was found dead on May 26, 2020 in the couple's Annville home by police responding to the report of a deceased person. Neighbors called authorities when Maurer told one of them that Maxwell Schollenberger had died.

Prosecutors and investigators claim Maxwell Schollenberger suffered years of abuse. 

According to court documents, when police arrived, they immediately requested assistance from the Lebanon County Detective Bureau due to the horrific conditions they discovered inside the residence.

Authorities say they discovered the child's body in a second floor bedroom naked, sprawled across the bed.

Police say that the victim's body appeared malnourished.

Court documents state that the bed, child's clothing and child's body were covered in fecal matter, and the odor emanating from the bedroom was described as 'overpowering.'

Police said that the victim's room contained no forms of electrical or artificial lighting, and that windows had shades duct taped to the window frames themselves.

Authorities say that permanently affixed screws held windows closed, and the room was barren outside of the bed the child's body was found on.

According to the court documents, the only liquid found inside the child's room was a plastic cup near the bed frame that contained "a single inch of water." 

Police say during an examination of the outside of the child's door, it was found that three metal hooks were installed to be able to lock the victim in the room.

After an investigation into the death, police found that the victim had been kept in his bedroom and hidden from the public and some immediate family members for several years.

Schollenberger Jr., the victim's biological father, and Maurer, the victim's step-mother, had never taken the child to a doctor's office appoint for over a decade, and had never enrolled the child in any schooling, court documents state.

Both Schollenberger Jr. and Maurer denied that the victim had suffered from any form of physical or mental disorder.

Police say that other children lived in the residence from another relationship of Maurer's.

Those children appeared to be healthy and well cared for and told police that they rarely ever saw the victim prior to his death. Some said they weren't even aware of his existence, according to court documents.

A forensic autopsy was performed on the victim's body by Doctor Michael W. Johnson, MD, PhD, on June 1 at Lehigh Valley Hospital.

The autopsy revealed that the victim had numerous signs of starvation and malnutrition, including his Body Mass Index being less than the 1st percentile for his age group.

Johnson specifically noted the child weighed only 47.5 pounds at his death, and was a height of only 50 inches. He was nowhere near the size, weight, or stature appropriate for a child of his age. All four of the child’s limbs showed a severe lack of muscle mass; his bones themselves showed a weakened state.

Johnson rendered the following opinion regarding the victim's cause and manner of death:

"In my medical opinion, this 12-year-old child died as the result of blunt force head trauma complicating starvation/malnutrition. In the context of the Lebanon County investigation, it is my medical opinion that this child's death was a homicide."

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