Ella Wolff, who is close in age to 12-year-old Max Schollenberger, shared a poem about his tortured death Thursday standing on the Lebanon County Courthouse steps before she marched with a few others throughout the city to raise child abuse awareness.
“He was 12,” Ella Wolff said. “He was still a child and had been horribly abused and then killed. This makes me so angry. He didn’t deserve it. No child should go through what he did. A child should not have to worry about being abused, starved, or fed table scraps from his siblings.”
Max Schollenberger’s dead body was found by authorities on May 26. He had been starved, beaten, and discovered in his own feces. Many people — including the family’s neighbors — did not know he existed, let alone that he was abused.
The boy’s father, Scott Schollenberger Jr., 42, and his father’s fiancée, Kimberly Maurer, 35, have since been charged with homicide.
“There are so many kids just like Max that need our help,” Ella Wolff said. “We have to work together to fight. Let’s save our children. Start speaking out to someone if you ever see someone getting hurt.”
Organizers said they are heartbroken by the boy’s death, and were inspired to do something. They said they feel strongly about becoming proactive to prevent child abuse, rescue missing children, and stop child trafficking.
“We need to learn and educate ourselves on how to see that somebody’s being abused,” said organizer Nichole Harner. “This can’t happen again.”
Harner, a former Annville Township resident, and lifetime Lebanon County resident, said she’s driven past Max Schollenberger’s house countless times. She said she’s still in disbelief that nobody knew the boy was quietly suffering inside that home.
“I can’t imagine having my own child locked in a room and just not feeding them,” said the mother of three. “He might not have even been aware of the severity of what was happening to him.”
Harner said she’s been working with others to try to craft legislation that would establish stricture punishments for child abusers. Pennsylvania law doesn’t go far enough, she said.
Her hope is to pitch it to Lebanon County Republican state Rep. Russ Diamond. It would be called Maxwell’s law, but she’s not sure what exactly would be in it yet. However, she said it needs to have more teeth to establish justice.
“If I had known about the abuse, I would have immediately called the cops anonymously or not,” she said. “I don’t care if you want to come after me because I would sooner have you came after me than after a child.”
District Attorney Pier Hess Graf said the 12-year-old was kept for years in a dark bare room with the blinds duct-taped and shutters nailed shut. There was no electricity, toys or furniture, other than the bed on which Max Schollenberger’s body was found, Graf said. She said police were called after Maurer told a neighbor about the 12-year-old’s death.
- Couple beat, starved and imprisoned Pa. boy, 12, and let him die caked in his own feces, detectives say
Graf said Max Schollenberger never received medical care or attended school.
Abused as a child, Harner said she’s going to continue to shine a light on the subject.
“I will never understand what Max went through, but I know that as far as his siblings go, they were probably scared out of their mind if they even understood that it was wrong,” Harner said. “And, they were probably scared to go tell anybody.”
Dozens of people showed up early Thursday for the march but were turned away because Harner’s permit had a time limit. Though only five people marched through Lebanon City, Harner said it is only the beginning.
“My daughter became passionate about fighting for Max,” Kathi Wolff said. “She was heartbroken about what happened, and when we asked her why is this so important to you, she said because he couldn’t speak, so I’m going to speak for him.”
“And, that was all I needed to hear.”