Helena Gudell’s Wonderland: Filicide

the killing of one’s son or daughter.
“maternal filicide”
a person who kills their son or daughter.
plural noun: filicides

There are roughly 6% of women each year who are unable to conceive a child (between the child bearing years of 15-44). So infertility is a common problem. But there are many women who are blessed with being able to be a mother. Not everyone takes that title as a blessing and some take that gift for granted. There are many reasons why people kill their child. None of which we agree with here at BCE. Sometimes a mother is going thru what doctors call Postpartum Depression and she kills her children such was the case with Andrea Yates who drowned her 5 kids in 2001 in the midst of a postpartum psychosis. In the case of Susan Smith who killed her two kids, the defense says she suffered from mental illness. Then of course more recently, there is Julie Schenecker who murdered her kids for their bad mouth. Written in the Wonderland article Don’t Talk Back. Sometimes they let their tempers get the better of them. Whatever their reason, it happens more than we like to think and this trip down the rabbit hole I found 2 cases I wanted to bring to your attention.

Dominick Calhoun

The case of Dominick Calhoun is one that is particularly troubling for me. It is always a tragedy when a child loses their life. This is a case from a few years ago that still brings me to tears when I think about the days of abuse this child suffered at the hands of his mother’s boyfriend. On Thursday morning April 8, 2010 little Dominick was eating his breakfast on the sofa when he had an accident. Now if you’ve ever been around a 4yr old you will know that they occasionally have accidents. This morning, Dominick not only soiled himself with urine, but he also got the couch cushions wet. This angered Brandon Hayes, the boyfriend of Dominick’s mother, Corrine Baker. This would only be the first of 3 days of abuse that didn’t stop despite the child’s unconsciousness during the course of the timeline. During the beatings the child would be unconscious and bruised. It was obvious that Brandon had gone far Image result for dominick calhoun imagesoverboard, but that didn’t stop him. He would drag the unconscious child’s body around and continue to beat him. Kick him. Stomp him. Punch him. And if Corrine tried to stop him or got in the way he would punish her. He threatened to kill her. He beat her. Broke her ribs, gave her cigarette burns, blackened both her eyes, dragged her around by her hair. Her screams for help were heard every day by neighbors but no one called for help. On the third day her sister came to the house to buy drugs and saw the unconscious, barely breathing, badly beaten Dominick and asked what was going on. She was then cornered by Brandon and threatened with her life. Corrine told her not to call the police out of fear for all their lives. After agreeing to keep the secret, she was allowed to leave. It was at that point she called Dominick’s paternal grandfather. He called police and sent EMS and officer’s to the apartment shared by Corrine and Brandon. When EMT’s arrived they found Dominick unresponsive and moaning on the floor. He was rushed to the hospital and emergency surgery was performed to try and relieve the swelling that had been taking place in his brain for days. After being in the hospital for a day, little Dominick was taken off life support and succumbed to his injuries on April 12, 2010.

Corrine gave an interview the next day and you could see the signs of abuse her body had taken over the course of the 3 days her son was tortured and abused. She stated that Brandon had thrown Dominick as far as 3 or 4 feet into the wall. But this was not the first time that Brandon had abused Dominick that weekend. During court proceedings, Corrine testified that Dominick had a burn on his hand that he received on April 8 just days before his deadly encounter with Brandon. When Corrine inquired as to what happened, Brandon became violent with her thinking she was accusing him of doing something to her son. At that time he also accused a neighborhood child of burning Dominick. She also testified that during the course of the 3 days of torture and beatings that Brandon would put Dominick in the shower in an attempt to revive him before beating him again. He kicked Dominick in the head 12 to 14 times and pulled 2 of the little child’s teeth out with his bare hands.

Corrine Baker plead guilty to Second Degree Murder in the death of her youngest son. She will serve 13-30 years. The prosecution stated she didn’t do enough to help her son in his most desperate time of need. I have mixed feelings about this charge. Would the outcome have been any different if Corrine had left the apartment and gone to get help? Would she and her other child be alive today if she had called the police? What would have happened if she had done more to try and save her son? Would she be alive right now to sit in a cell? She took a beating and put herself in front of her son in an attempt to save him. The state says she should have more.

Brandon Hayes is serving a two life sentences for what he did to little Dominick Calhoun. The judge admitted before he sentenced Brandon, that he had difficulty with this case emotionally. He said he cried for little Dominick after he heard the evidence presented.

Scotty McMillan

The case of Scotty McMillan is just as disturbing as that of young Dominick. But this one has a very sick and twisted difference. Scotty wasn’t protected by his mother. Scotty had no one to stand in front of the blows for him. In fact his mother was one of his abusers. And when she wasn’t abusing him, she was laughing at his abuse. This case has not gone to trial yet. I am going to be following this one since I find it so incredibly disturbing. This is going to be a death penalty trial which once you learn what these animals did to this child, you will understand that it is rightfully being charged.

Jillian Tait met her married boyfriend at Walmart where the two of them worked together. Gary Fellenbaum was married and living with his wife Amber and their child when Jillian moved in with her 2 kids. I must say before I go any further it took me a full day to continue past this point without wanting to break down in tears and even then it was still difficult to write the things that this poor child enduredWithin two weeks of moving in with her new boyfriend and his wife, the abuse started. It all started because Scotty didn’t want to eat his toast. Over the course of two weeks what started out as spankings turned more and more violent until it became deadly systemic torture and abuse. While they were abusing little Scotty the family carried on with their lives as if nothing was amiss in the house. They went car shopping, ate pizza, had sex on the same mattress they abused the child on, and even laughed during some of the sessions. And what did those sessions include? Well during the last 3 days of his life Scotty McMillan was beaten unconscious, beaten with a frying pan, hung by his feet and had his head bashed into the drywall to the point there were holes caused by his skull, taped to a chair while his mother’s boyfriend punched him in the stomach and face. He was beat with a homemade whip, a curtain rod, and their fists. His mother didn’t protect him. She didn’t tell her boyfriend to stop. She joined him. She helped him. Not out of fear. But because she enjoyed it. She laughed during some of the beatings. The last day of his life little Scotty was placed in a shower for 30 minutes when he became unconscious. And tho he had been unresponsive for hours he was placed on a deflated mattress and his mother and her boyfriend left him there and went shopping. Only then did the wife, Amber, call 911 and report that he was not responding to anything. Only then after a day of him being unresponsive did someone in that house care enough to pick up the phone and call for help. By then it was too late. 

Scotty wasn’t the only one abused in that house. His older brother had also been hung and abused. He survived and was able to give a detailed account to police and authorities about what happened to him and his brother. He was able to recall how he knew if he didn’t struggle while he was hung that he wouldn’t get hit so bad but his brother didn’t understand that because he was only 3 not 6 like him. He was able to recount how his mother and Gary laughed while they were doing it. This poor child was there while his brother was murdered by his own mother and her boy toy and he suffered abuse and survived. 

Amber Fellenbaum is only facing 4 charges in this case. (2) Endangering Child Welfare and (2) Recklessly Endangering Another Person. Jillian Tait is facing the death penalty along with 15 counts to include 1st Degree Murder, Conspiracy to Commit Murder, 3rd Degree Murder, and a litany of other charges. Gary Fellenbaum is also facing the death penalty along with 16 counts with the added charge of Possessing Instrument of Crime with Intent… that would be for his homemade torture devices. 

These two cases hit real hard for me as many of you know my son was a victim of child abuse by the hands of his own father when he was just 6 months old. I have never been able to understand how a parent could allow this to happen to their child. When my son was abused and had both his legs broken I was at work during one of my 12hr military shifts. But I immediately took him to the hospital and allowed them to notify authorities despite the fact that I would become a suspect. I cannot fathom how a parent can allow the death of their child or even partake in it. To become a parent is such a gift no matter how annoying they can be. No matter how tired and sleep deprived you become. There is something about the way a child looks at you. You are their hero. You are their number 1. They look to you for everything. Tonight I slow danced with my son while cooking dinner and thought about these two young boys. The experiences that I came close to missing out on. The things my son is lucky enough to do that these boys and many other kids missed out on. When he has residual pain in his knee and ankle from his fractures I thank God that’s all he suffers from. My son is one of the lucky ones. The other day I discussed this case with a family member and I originally felt bad for Corrine. She tried to save her son and suffered abuse because of it. But then I started thinking about the case more. After I thought about what COULD have happened had she gone for help or called the police,  started thinking about what would have happened had she left before he abused her son. When he was only abusing her. What if she valued her life more than the drugs and decided to leave then. Before he started abusing her son. Did the state get it right in charging her with second degree murder saying she didn’t do enough?

I can’t even start to describe how I feel about the case with Scotty. I hope they both get death. Actually no I take that back. I hope they both get Life Without Parole and they are in General Population and some inmates who can’t see their kids hang them by their feet and beat them to death. And while Amber is only facing 4 charges I hope the same thing happens to her. I hope they all suffer an inconceivable death at the hands of people who have nothing to lose. I hope they feel what its like to suffer at the hands of people they’re just getting to know and trust. Just like Scotty. He was just getting to really know his mother and her boyfriend and his wife. While many will say he knew his mom since he was already 3… the truth is he really was just getting to know her. He was just at the age when he was able to ask questions. When he was able to start figuring her out and getting to know who she was and what she was all about. And then he was introduced to this other family. Within a couple weeks of meeting them he was dead. He died on November 4 at the age of 3. Barely able to put together a sentence, couldn’t read or write his name. 

So share your thoughts. What do you think? Do you think Corrine Baker got what she deserved with her 13-30yr sentence for Second Degree Murder? Or do you think she should have gotten off since she too was a victim of abuse? In the times when neighbors are calling the police for parents allowing their kids to walk home alone, why do you think no one called when they admittedly heard screaming for days? Where do we draw the line for nosy neighbors and minding our own business? Do you think Gary and Jillian should get death? Do you think they should get Life? Pennsylvania hasn’t executed a person since 1999… what is the likelihood that they will get put to death before they actually die in custody? 

Drop me a line at WonderlandBCE@gmail.com or follow me on twitter and tweet me there @WonderlandBCE if you or someone you know is falling victim to abuse please reach out to the following numbers

Child Abuse: 800-4-A-CHLD (422-4453)

Domestic Abuse: 800-799-SAFE (7233)


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