Couple face 31 counts in child abuse case

Prosecutors on Monday detailed what they said was a Westminster couple's ongoing pattern of child abuse and neglect against six children who were found in what was characterized as a "dangerous and unsanitary" living situation. The youngest two, a 5-year-old and a 7-year-old who were found in a small, locked room, are now in therapeutic care, prosecutors say.

Paul Antonio Trapani, 54, and Melissa Arlene Trapani, 44, of the unit block of Landau Drive in Westminster, are charged with 31 counts, including first- and second-degree child abuse, confining an unattended child, neglect of a minor, first- and second-degree assault, and conspiracy to commit those crimes, according to electronic court files.


The charges stem from what the court was told Monday was a lengthy and complex investigation that followed a November 2014 check of the Trapani's home.

In that check, the county's Department of Social Services and animal control officers from the Humane Society of Carroll County were sent to the defendants' home, where they found six children living in what was described as "dangerous and unsanitary conditions," Amy Blank Ocampo, senior assistant state's attorney, said Monday during a bail review hearing for Melissa Trapani.

She said the county's investigation into the severity and length of the alleged abuse has taken months to complete due to its complexity.

"[The] investigation revealed that the abuse and neglect of these children had been occurring for years," Ocampo said.

Piles of rotting food and decomposing trash were found in the children's bedroom, Ocampo said. The two youngest children, ages 5 and 7, were found naked and locked in a small room.

Upon entering the room, Social Services workers found feces on the walls and door, and the youngest had a diaper duct taped to his body which had not been changed for some time, she said.

All six children were removed from the home. The two youngest were initially taken to Carroll Hospital Center, then placed in a therapeutic foster home through the Kennedy Krieger Institute. The four eldest have remained together in a foster home. Their ages have not been released.

Animal control also found 11 dogs in the house, nine of which were kept in crates filled with excrement and urine, according to Ocampo. The dogs also were removed from the home.

At Carroll Hospital Center, the two youngest children were found to be unresponsive to basic instructions and did not recognize their names when addressed. The 5-year-old boy has been diagnosed with "developmental delay due to neglect," Ocampo said.

The 7-year-old girl was seen acting in a manner described as "animal-like," and her younger brother "imitated much of the female child's behavior," Ocampo said.

The two were sent to Kennedy Krieger, where numerous evaluations of the girl have been conducted. One states: "due to [her] limited exposure to a typical developmental environment, her deficits are currently best represented by a mixed receptive-expressive language disorder. She does not know how to interact with others as opposed to interacting with others in an atypical way."

Social Services workers reported seeing other behaviors reported to result from mistreatment, Ocampo said.

Since their arrest Thursday, the defendants have been held without bail at the Carroll County Detention Center, and Ocampo asked the judge continue holding Melissa Trapani without bond.

Ocampo also said the Humane Society is applying for animal abuse and cruelty charges.


Both will continue to be held without bail as Judge Michael M. Galloway decided to postpone further review of Melissa Trapani's bail status at a hearing Monday. Paul Trapani's bail is set to be reviewed Tuesday morning, but Galloway said he will likely postpone the case until next week.

A new date for the bail reviews has not yet been set.

Brian DeLeonardo, Carroll County's State's Attorney, said he could not comment on why the bail reviews were postponed.

Christina Marlow, attorney for Melissa Trapani, asked the judge set a $10,000 unsecured bond for her client due to "serious costs" the defendants have amassed to pay for Social Services and attorney fees.

Since November, Social Services has allowed Melissa Trapani unsupervised visitations twice a week. It would not be beneficial to the children to be away from their mother while the case progresses, Marlow said. The four eldest children have remained together in a foster home during the course of the investigation.

In Paul Trapani's motion for bail review, attorney Thomas Hickman said that the care of the younger children, both whom have been diagnosed with autism, "was made difficult by the affinity of the wife to rescue dogs."

Both defendants are retired Army National Guard personnel. Paul Trapani reached the rank of colonel while Melissa Trapani retired as a sergeant.

Reach staff writer Wiley Hayes at 410-857-3315 or