Trial date set in child murder
Alleged torture slaying of Scott McMillan, 3, drew national attention
The Chester County Common Pleas Court judge overseeing the cases of three people accused in the brutal torture and murder of 3-year-old Scott “Scotty” McMillan has set April 3 as the date the first defendant will go to trial.
Judge William P. Mahon addressed the case of Gary Lee Fellenbaum III with his attorney, George Yacoubian of Philadelphia, as well as with the attorney representing Fellenbaum’s girlfriend and co-defendant, Jillian Tate, in the capital murder case.
Yacoubian told the judge that he was prepared to go forward with the trial schedule that Mahon had set in August of getting all of the prosecution’s discovery, of filing all pre-trial motions by Nov. 1, and of starting jury selection on the first Monday in April.
Because the prosecution is seeking the death penalty, the jury selection process will likely take the better part of a week.
Mahon said the Chester County District Attorney’s Office had signaled its intention to try each of the defendants — Fellenaum, Tait, and Fellenbaum’s wife, Amber Fellenbaum — separately, beginning with Gary Fellenbaum. But Yacoubian, who said a recent health issue he experience would not alter his schedule in the case, indicated that he would file a motion to consolidate his client’s case with Tait’s.
Mahon said that he had set the same schedule for the trial of Tait, in the unanticipated event that the case against Fellenbaum “falls apart” for any reason.
But Laurence Harmelin, the Wester Chester attorney representing Tait, told Mahon shortly after Yacoubian’s appearance that it appeared to him unlikely that his client’s case would go to trial.
“I would say that the likelihood of Jillian Tait going to trial is well less than 5050,” Harmelin said during a discussion of the case. “I don’t think that’s going to happen. My expectation is that it is going to be worked out” — meaning that Tait would enter a plea in the case.
Yacoubian formally continued Gary Fellenbaum’s case until Mahon’s October trial
session, with the understanding that the matter would not be reached until next spring. Neither Gary Fellenbaum nor Tait were in the courtroom while the discussions occurred. They are being held without bail in Chester County Prison.
First Assistant District Attorney Michael Noone, who is leading the prosecution with Deputy District Attorney Deborah Ryan, declined comment, citing the ongoing nature of the case.
“Scotty” McMillan’s death and the arrest of his three alleged killers drew national and international attention at the time, and still resonates with those who first hear of it.
On Nov. 4, 2014 Scott McMillan was found unresponsive at the West Caln home that his mother, Tait, had been sharing with Gary Fellenbaum and his wife, Amber Fellnbaum sometime in September 2014, after a call to 911 from Amber Fellenbaum. Tait had two sons who lived with them, as well as Fellenbaum’s child.
Beginning in October, according to the accusations set forth in the case against the Fellenbaums and Tait, Gary Fellenbaum began physically abusing both of Tait’s children. The abuse included punches and beatings, but also whipping with a crudely fashioned “cat o’nine tails,” and tying the boys to chairs or hanging them upside down by their feet.
Allegedly Gary Fellenbaum’s beating of Scott McMillan escalated to the point where he could not hold down his food. Angered, Fellenbaum allegedly punched him in the face so hard he fell out of his chair, and later punched him in the stomach. The boy began vomiting and later passed out. Although Fellenbaum and Tait tried to revive him, they left him alone in a bedroom for several hours before finding him completely unresponsive.
Both Gary Fellenbaum and Tait allegedly gave incriminating statements to police investigators after their arrests.
This photo combo of undated images shows Gary Lee Fellenbaum, left, and Jillian Tait, who were charged Nov. 6, 2014, with murder in the death of Tait’s 3-year-old son, Scott McMillan.
This undated photo shows 3-year-old Scott McMillan. Gary Lee Fellenbaum and Jillian Tait were charged Nov. 6, 2014, with murder in the death of Scott, who was Tait’s son.