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Lebanon County’s top prosecutor is getting outside assistance in her bid to win a conviction in the brutal abuse and murder of a 12-year-old Lebanon boy.
District Attorney Pier Hess Graf on June 4 announced that Edward McCann, a seasoned attorney from Montgomery County, has joined her legal team seeking to convict Scott Schollenberger and Kimberly Maurer for the death of Maxwell Schollenberger.
McCann, who has extensive experience in similar cases, will serve in his special role only for the Maxwell Schollenberger cases. McCann will use personal vacation time during the two-week trial, and he will not be compensated for his legal work or expenses.
The Lebanon County District Attorney’s office is staffed by two attorneys, District Attorney Pier Hess Graf and First Assistant DA Nichole Eisenhart, both of whom had served under the previous District Attorney, the late state Senator David Arnold, but Eisenhart is not involved in this prosecution. Hess Graf will serve as the lead prosecutor and McCann as the assisting prosecutor. McCann was sworn in Friday, June 4, by President Judge John C. Tylwalk as a special prosecutor expressly for the cases against Schollenberger and Maurer.
“Attorney McCann is someone I have watched over the years,” said Hess Graf. “I respect his work quite a bit. I reached out to him and we kept in touch. Then, we talked more about the case and he said, ‘Hey, would you like a teammate?’ I was floored. … I’m very happy he agreed to be my partner in this.
“Think of the lawyers in a homicide trial as a team,” she continued. “You have a first chair, who is the main prosecutor, and then you have a second chair. I’m not training a new lawyer. This is someone who’s a passionate professional. This is him wanting to come in and add assistance to make sure a 12-year-old boy gets justice. If I’m able to make this office better, we need to do it. I want Lebanon County to know that we will put forth the best effort, all the time.”
McCann, who has been practicing law for more than 30 years, oversees the day-to-day operations in the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office, supervises the legal staff and oversees the prosecution of nearly 9,000 cases per year. McCann, who’s a member of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Legal Advisory Board on Child Abuse, also spent 26 years in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.
Hess Graf, who’s been Lebanon County’s District Attorney for 17 months, said McCann has “prosecuted heinous cases of child abuse and homicides of children; of anyone within the state, he would be my pick for strategy and advice as we seek justice for 12-year-old Maxwell Schollenberger.”
A pretrial conference is scheduled for Sept. 13. The trial currently is on the docket for March 14.
In her 12 years as a prosecutor, Hess Graf said she has never before brought in a special prosecutor.
“I truly believe that by working with Attorney McCann from the get-go, we can put forth our best product,” she said. “If you don’t do that, you’re not doing a service to any victim or any trial.”
Scott Schollenberger and Kimberly Maurer were both charged for their parts in Maxwell’s neglect, abuse and murder.
On May 26, 2020, Annville Township police responded to a report of a deceased child at 30 S. White Oak St., Annville. Upon discovering the boy’s body in a second-floor bedroom, the Annville officers requested assistance from the Lebanon County Detective Bureau.
Days later, the bureau charged Scott Schollenberger and his fiancé Kimberly Maurer with criminal homicide, conspiracy to commit criminal homicide, endangering the welfare of a child and conspiracy to commit endangering the welfare of a child. Hess Graf said Scott Schollenberger, the victim’s biological father, and Kimberly Maurer, who acted as the victim’s mother for the past decade, were Maxwell’s caregivers, and that they had well-adjusted and healthy biological children together, who also lived at the same Annville address.
The district attorney said Maxwell’s biological mother was not living in Pennsylvania at the time of the alleged incidents and had not had contact with Maxwell in years.
County detectives reported finding the victim’s body, naked and apparently malnourished, covered in fecal matter and sprawled across the bed where he died. Detectives also reported a bedroom devoid of other furniture or light, with shades taped to window frames.
“The cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head,” said Hess Graf, a 37-year-old resident of Lebanon city. “Maxwell Schollenberger was 12 years old at the time of his death. He had never been to school. He had never seen a doctor in the last ten years. He was a boy who died isolated in his own room.
“Maxwell Schollenberger existed – I will not call this living – in a state of perpetual suffering; he existed in the most egregious and foul conditions,” Hess Graf continued. “He remained starved, locked away, and isolated until his killing. The child never looked forward to his first day of school, blew out candles on a birthday cake, or experienced the unconditional love of family. Maxwell Schollenberger died in soiled sheets, covered in his own feces.”
Dr. Michael Johnson performed a forensic autopsy on Maxwell’s body on June 1, 2020, at Lehigh Valley Hospital. Johnson reported that, at the time of his death, Maxwell weighed 47.5 pounds and measured 50 inches in height, vital statistics not congruent with a child of his age. Johnson also reported signs of multiple blunt force traumas on the victim’s head, face and body.
“One case of child abuse is too many,” said Hess Graf, who noted she has “tried a number of homicide cases” but never before one involving a child. “Murders such as these are haunting, for the community and the law enforcement involved. Our office will always fight for vulnerable, defenseless victims. The utter despair that was Max Schollenberger’s life begs for justice for his death.
“People are constantly calling us about this case,” she said. “They want to know what’s going on with it. We can’t answer all the questions. But we’re trying to be as open and as transparent as possible. We’re gearing up for an important trial, but both of these defendants are innocent until proven guilty. We’re working every day to build our case to bring justice for Maxwell Schollenberger.”
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