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Child's death spurs social media outreach

Dawn Wells is the mother of two young boys, one of whom will turn 3 in February. It is the same age Scott McMillan was when, police say, he was beaten to death nearly three weeks ago by his mother and her boyfriend in their home in Chester County.

Scott McMillan. (FILE)
Scott McMillan. (FILE)Read more

Dawn Wells is the mother of two young boys, one of whom will turn 3 in February.

It is the same age Scott McMillan was when, police say, he was beaten to death nearly three weeks ago by his mother and her boyfriend in their home in Chester County.

At her home in Nova Scotia, Canada, Wells heard about the case through social media.

"It doesn't matter what part of the world you're from, everyone's affected by this," she said. "It just broke my heart."

She wanted to do something for McMillan and his 6-year-old brother, who police say also was abused. So now she uses Facebook to spread the word about various petitions, fund-raisers, and other ways people can help.

Scott's story and the details of the beatings and torture he suffered before his death on Nov. 4 have hit many people hard. His story also has spurred them to do whatever they can to help.

A trust fund at DNB First, a bank based in Chester County, has been set up to benefit Scott's 6-year-old brother, who is in the care of relatives.

The West Caln Township community has held candlelight vigils for Scott. He and his brother were abused in their West Caln mobile home.

One man said he planned to raise money to build a park or monument in Scott's memory.

The James J. Terry Funeral Home in Downingtown paid for Scott's Nov. 12 funeral, according to the Chester County District Attorney's Office.

People moved by the story are trying to organize "Walk for Scotty" events in several states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, for the spring to raise awareness about child abuse.

An official at the Coatesville Area School District, where Scott's brother is in kindergarten, said surrounding school districts had offered their counselors to help support his classmates and their families.

"It's a comfort to know that neighboring districts have been willing to reach out," said Beth Trapani, school district spokeswoman.

Facebook users have started several memorial pages on the social-media website to share their feelings about Scott and to speak out about child abuse.

Several Facebook groups are tracking the county's case against 31-year-old Jillian Tait, the boys' mother, and 23-year-old Gary Fellenbaum, her boyfriend. Both have been charged with murder.

Fellenbaum's wife, Amber, who lived with the couple, was charged with child endangerment. The Fellenbaums were divorcing at the time, and police said she saw the abuse but did nothing to stop it.

An online petition with more than 6,300 signatures calls for Amber Fellenbaum to be charged as an accomplice to the murder, although that is not legally viable.

Tom Hogan, Chester County district attorney, said his office would seek the death penalty for Tait and Gary Fellenbaum. Some Facebook pages, such as Wells', call that the only way justice can be done for Scott.

An online petition urging prosecutors to seek the death penalty without offering plea deals for Tait and Fellenbaum has gotten more than 3,200 signatures from across the United States and several other countries since it was started on Nov. 11.

A 28-year-old mother of four young children who lives in Miami started the petition. She declined to be publicly identified out of fear of harassment.

She started a Facebook group in 2013 called News on Child Abuse Cases after a 7-month-old boy in California who resembled her son was killed when he would not stop crying. The woman has posted online about Scott.

"The first few weeks, it's all over the news, and then people forget about it," she said. "I want to make sure that doesn't happen for him and all the other abused kids. I want to make sure he's never forgotten."

Peggy Gusz, executive director of the Crime Victims' Center of Chester County, said people had called and e-mailed to offer cards, toys, and clothes for Scott's brother. The center heard from someone in the Philippines.

"This is something that hits close to home and obviously has impacted people all over the world," Gusz said.

A box of comic books for Scott's brother made its way to the victims' center from Colorado. Someone else sent in a large poster of Superman.

Gusz said people who want to help should send money to the official trust fund, so those caring for Scott's brother can buy him what he needs.

Donations can be sent to the Chester County Angel Trust at DNB First Wealth Management, 410 Exton Square Parkway, Exton, Pa. 19341.

Gusz also encouraged people to donate to victims' centers in their own communities.

"Unfortunately," she said, "there are other Scottys."

610-313-8207 @MichaelleBond