New attorney hired in ‘Scotty’ murder case
WEST CHESTER >> The man allegedly at the center of the brutal murder of 3-year-old Scott “Scotty” McMillan has hired a new attorney to represent him in the death penalty case he faces, a move that is not expected to delay the eventual trial next year, according to those involved.
Gary Lee Fellenbaum III appeared in Common Pleas Court Monday before Judge William P. Mahon to formally ask that the two members of the Chester County Public Defender’s Office representing him be removed from the case and his new, private attorney, allowed to appear on his behalf.
His new attorney, George Yacoubian of Philadelphia, entered his appearance on May 25.
First Assistant Public Defender Nathan M. Schenker, who along with Assistant Public Defender Loreen Kemps had represented Fellenbaum since his arrest in November 2014, asked
Mahon to formally allow them to withdraw as his attorneys. Mahon did so after asking Fellenbaum if that was what he wanted.
Fellenbaum, 24, clean shaven and dressed in a black T-shirt and black pants, said it was. He did not elaborate on why he chose to switch attorneys.
“Are you comfortable with this?” Mahon asked Fellenbaum. “Yes,” the defendant answered.
Afterward, Fellenbaum was returned to Chester County Prison, where he has been held without bail since his arrest. Yacoubian declined comment outside the courtroom.
Yacoubian, a former prosecutor who has represented clients such as the lead defendant in the socalled “Tacony House of Horrors” case in Philadelphia, and who was briefly mentioned as a possible representative of former television personality Don Tollefson, will now get all the discovery and defense related material that the Public Defender’s Office has received in the intervening months since Fellenbaum’s arrest.
Yacoubian told Mahon that he would be prepared for a pre-trial conference to discuss scheduling later this summer, and that he expected to begin filing pretrial motions on behalf of his client in September.
Mahon asked if he would be ready to try to case in May 2017, and Yacoubian indicated that he would, absent any unforeseen issues arising.
First Assistant Michael Noone, who is prosecuting the case with Deputy District Attorney Deborah Ryan of the DA’s Child Abuse Unit, asked whether Yacoubian was going to need assistance from a socalled mitigation counsel, who would handle the case if Fellenbaum is found guilty of first-degree murder and consequently faced a penalty phase in the trial. But Mahon said he did not expect that Yacoubian would have to answer that question.
“I am not going to get in and micro-manage this case,” the judge said.
Scott McMillan was found unresponsive at the West Caln home that his mother, Jillian Tait, had been sharing with Fellenbaum, her boyfriend, and his wife, Amber Fellenbaum, sometime in September 2014. She had two sons who lived with them, as well as Fellenbaum’s child.
Beginning in October, according to the allegations set forth in the case against the Fellenbaums and Tait, Gary Fellenbaum began physically abusing both the boys. 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 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 allegedly gave incriminating statements to police investigators after their arrests.
In 2011, Yacoubian was hired to represent Linda Ann Weston, the alleged ringleader in the “Tacony House of Horrors” case. She was accused of a mountain of crimes, including two murders, kidnapping, racketeering, conspiracy, hate crimes, wire and mail fraud, sex trafficking and forced human labor.
Authorities said Weston and four co-defendants lured and abused mentally disabled people and stole $212,000 in disability payments.
Six adults and four children were victimized between 2001 and October 2011 in Philadelphia, Texas, Virginia and Florida, prosecutors said. Weston and her co-defendants were arrested in October 2011, after Philadelphia police discovered four victims locked in the filthy basement of a Tacony apartment building.
Yacoubian was removed from the case after it was transferred to federal court. At the time, the judge overseeing the trial decided that Yacoubian did not have enough experience with capital punishment cases in the federal system, according to news reports.
Last week, the United Way of Chester County dedicated one of its “Born Learning” trail initiatives at the Struble Trail in Downingtown to honor Scott McMillan’s memory.
This photo combo of undated images provided by the Chester County District Attorney’s Office, shows Gary Lee Fellenbaum, left, and Jillian Tait, who were charged Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014, with murder in the death of Tait’s 3-year-old son, Scott McMillan.
Pictured is the late Scott McMillan. He was 3 years old at the time of his death.