A Westminster couple agreed to an Alford plea in a child abuse case accusing them of criminally neglecting their six children.

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 in Carroll County Circuit Court, both Paul Trapani 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.


By taking an Alford plea, defendants agree that the state would likely find them guilty if the case went to trial, but they don't admit guilt. While the state and defense agreed to the counts that the Trapanis would take Alford pleas to, it did not agree on sentencing, Senior Assistant State's Attorney Amy Ocampo said.

After Ocampo read a statement of facts, Stansfield found Melissa Trapani guilty of the six counts of neglect of a minor and ordered a hearing on her criminal responsibility. Melissa Trapani's attorney, William Welch III, will argue that she was not criminally responsible for her actions.

Stansfield deferred Paul Trapani's disposition until after the criminal responsibility hearing.

Between October 2011 and November 2014, Melissa Trapani, and allegedly Paul Trapani, neglected her six children in such a way that one of the youngest children was described as animal-like after being evaluated, Ocampo said while giving Stansfield the statement of facts.

The Trapani children ranged from 2 to 10 years of age when the abuse first started. They were between 5 and 15 when investigators came to the house after suspecting child abuse, according to the statement of facts Ocampo read.

The Carroll County Department of Social Services first investigated the Trapanis after one of the children drew a picture at school and described his home. It concerned the principal of Cranberry Station Elementary, who then spoke to another child. The girl said that two of the children were kept locked in a room and they slept on the floor because there were no beds, Ocampo said.

When investigators came to the house, they found animal feces on the floor of the house and two dogs in crates with feces and urine. Melissa Trapani showed the investigators one of her children who was sleeping on his bed, a mattress and box spring without sheets. The room was covered in trash and other rooms had feces on the walls, Ocampo said.

The investigators then saw two kids peering out from a door that looked like a cage. Inside was a naked girl and a boy with a diaper taped to him. Both were covered in feces, Ocampo said.

Both children showed developmental problems. Neither knew how to wash their hands with water because they hadn't done it before and they couldn't drink from a cup or straw. At one point, the two kids attempted to lick feces or urine, Ocampo said.

The four other kids were covered with flea bites and were later diagnosed with several health problems, including possible drug addictions as the kids said they were given pills to make them sleep, Ocampo said.

As of Jan. 26, all the kids are in foster care or therapeutic foster care, she said.