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Pennsylvania Stepmother Sentenced To Life In Prison For Starving 12-Year-Old To Death

“I have always been raised to believe there is no such thing as an unforgivable sin. But this is as close as it gets,” Judge Bradford Charles said while sentencing Kimberly Maurer in the death of her stepson, Maxwell Schollenberger.

By Dorian Geiger
A police handout of Kimberly Maurer

A Pennsylvania woman convicted in the 2020 death of her malnourished 12-year-old stepson was handed a life sentence this week, prosecutors said.

Kimberly Maurer was sentenced to life behind bars plus 10-20 years on Wednesday after her conviction in March on charges of first degree murder and child welfare endangerment in the death of her husband’s son, Maxwell Schollenberger. She’d originally been charged with criminal homicide, endangering the welfare of a child and two counts of conspiracy.

Maxwell Schollenberger was found dead in his locked bedroom at his family's home Annville, Pennsylvania — just west of Hershey — on the morning of May 26, 2020; he was nude, and covered in feces in, PennLive.com reported. The unfurnished room lacked both light and any personal belongings.

At the time of his death, Schollenberger weighed under 48 pounds, according to PennLive.com; the Centers for Disease Control And Prevention says that a 12-year-old boy in the 50th percentile would weigh 105 pounds. An autopsy revealed the 12-year-old died from blunt force trauma to his head, while starvation and malnourishment were listed as complicating factors in his death.

The child hadn't been enrolled in school for a number of years and had been denied adequate medical care, prosecutors said.

“I have always been raised to believe there is no such thing as an unforgivable sin,” Judge Bradford Charles told the court at Wednesday’s sentencing hearing, the Patriot-News reported. “But this is as close as it gets.”

Maurer’s husband and the boy’s father, Scott Schollenberg, pleaded guilty to felony homicide in February and was given a life sentence without the possibility of parole, PennLive.com reported. He’s currently being housed at a state prison in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, according to online correctional records obtained by Oxygen.com.

Maurer, who also addressed the court this week, spoke remorsefully, recounting the chain of events that led to the 12-year-old’s demise. 

“I thought I was doing everything I could to help Max,” Maurer said, the Lebanon Daily News reported. “I wish I could go back in time to bring him back. It still makes me sick to this day. This makes me a coward and a failure. I know I failed and did not do enough.”

During the trial Maurer had attempted to deflect blame in the 12-year-old’s murder, instead insisting the abuse her husband inflicted on the child is what led to the boy’s death. 

The case’s judge, however, slammed Maurer’s attempt at evading culpability in the boy’s death this week, stating the couple acted in tandem.

“Any attempt to put all blame on one is misguided or misplaced,” Charles told Maurer in court. “You are not a parent, but you are a human being, and no human being should allow this to happen.”

A police handout of Scott Schollenberger

Prosecutors also painted Maurer as a cold, unloving and selfish parent, who spent family aid funds intended for Maxwell Schollenberger on herself. 

Officials said the Pennsylvania stepmother used financial support intended for Maxwell Schollenberger to pay for landscaping and to stock her refrigerator with groceries for a Memorial Day party she held one day before the 12-year-old was found dead, according to PennLive.com.

Maurer’s three children shared a bedroom in the home that had toys, clean clothes and a flatscreen television. 

“The consecutive sentences were based on the endangering the welfare of a child charge and that’s based over the course of conduct, meaning the 10 years of malnutrition, abuse and neglect that the two defendants would have inflicted on Maxwell,” Lebanon County District Attorney Pier Hess Graf said in a press conference following Maurer’s sentencing.

“It was not negligence,” Graf added. “It was a matter of how many more days. He lay there in that stench and suffering until he died…There is no logical explanation for it. She spent so much time typing hate and vitriol when she only needed to type three numbers—9-1-1.”

Evidence was presented at trial of messages and social media posts Mauer sent for up to nine years before her stepson's death in which she mocked and belittled the child, according to the Lebanon Daily News.

Prosecutors also accused Maurer of showing no remorse while viewing images of her stepson’s remains during her trial.

“There’s no getting him back,” Graf said. “We tried the best case we could have. I think we have gotten as good of an outcome as possible.”