A Carroll County judge has ruled that a Westminster woman convicted of child neglect for, among other things, locking two of her children in a room resembling a cage, is criminally responsible for her actions.

In June, Melissa Trapani's attorney William Welch III, argued that she was not criminally responsible due to severe major depressive disorder and alcohol abuse disorder as a result of the depressive disorder.


Trapani, 46, of the unit block of Landau Drive, took an Alford plea, along with her husband Paul Trapani, in January to six counts of child neglect. By taking an Alford plea, Trapani maintained her innocence while agreeing that the state could likely prove her guilty if the case went to trial.

On Friday, Judge Thomas Stansfield issued an opinion that Trapani could understand the criminality of her actions and could conform them to the standard required by society, and therefore found her criminally responsible for the six counts of child neglect.

Paul Trapani, 56, and Melissa Trapani, 46, were each charged with more than 30 counts related to child and animal abuse, according to electronic court records. During a hearing Thursday, both Paul and Melissa Trapani elected to take an alford plea to six counts each of neglect of a minor, public defender Judson Larrimore told Judge Thomas Stansfield.

According to the statement of facts read at the January plea hearing, the two children who had been locked in their room had severe developmental delays as a result of Trapani's neglect, including not knowing how to wash their hands with water or drink from a cup. Four other children were covered in flea bites and later diagnosed with several health problems, including addiction to sleeping pills.

Stansfield heard testimony from two forensic psychiatrists in June arguing whether Trapani was criminally responsible for her actions.

Dr. Neil Blumberg, a forensic psychiatrist who evaluated Trapani and testified for the defense, said that her actions were the result of the depressive disorder and he had determined that she was not criminally responsible for her actions.

Senior Assistant State's Attorneys Amy Ocampo and Ashley Pamer called on Dr. Tyler Hightower, who determined after evaluating Trapani that she had alcohol use disorder and depressive symptoms as a result of the alcohol use.

To find Trapani not criminally responsible, Welch had to demonstrate that Trapani either did not fully understand the criminality of her actions or she could not conform her actions to those required by society due to a mental disorder or mental delay, according to Maryland code.

It was a "battle of the experts" and "chicken and egg" situation, Welch told Stansfield at the June hearing, both of which Stansfield addressed in his opinion, filed Friday.

Stansfield wrote in his opinion that both experts were qualified, but he ultimately gave more weight to Hightower's assessment. " … due to the hours spent on and the plethora of information reviewed, Dr. Hightower's assessment and findings therein are of greater persuasion," according to Stansfield's opinion.

In her report on Trapani, referenced in Stansfield's opinion, Hightower found that Trapani's actions were the result of voluntary alcohol use — not the result of a major depressive disorder, as Blumberg had suggested, or bipolar disorder, as one of Trapani's psychologist's offered.

Regarding alcohol use, there are two categories considered when deciding criminal responsibility. The first category is for people who would be considered insane while in the middle of a "particular alcoholic bout," according to Stansfield's opinion. The second is people who could be considered insane whether or not they are under the influence of alcohol, even if the mental change is the result of voluntary drinking.

Those in the first category must be found criminally responsible, while those in the second must be found criminally not responsible, according to the opinion.

Trapani had moments of clarity during the period of several years when the child neglect occurred. She was able to plan trips to rescue dogs and took a 10-day vacation with her husband.

"She could have, nay, she should have used that time, energy, and capacity to care for her children," Stansfield wrote in his opinion.


Melissa Trapani also came up with the idea to barricade the two children in the room and fashion a door with bars as part of it. She also did not have depressive episodes the entire period of time that she neglected her children, according to the opinion.

"As such, the Court finds that the Defendant falls into the aforementioned first category of voluntary intoxication. Thus, the Defendant cannot escape criminal responsibility for the alleged offenses due to her voluntary consumption of alcohol," Stansfield wrote in the opinion.

Stansfield ruled in his decision that Trapani was not affected by major depressive disorder during the entire period of neglect. And while she was affected by her alcohol consumption, it was voluntary.

"The Court further finds that though the Defendant was consuming alcohol at an alarming rate on a daily basis, that consumption was voluntary and Defendant's mental facilities were only substantially impaired while intoxicated, they were not substantially impaired prior to her first sip or [when] its intoxicating affects [sic] wore off," Stansfield wrote in the opinion.

Sentencing hearings for the Trapanis have not been scheduled, according to electronic court records.