Bail set at $1 million for Harford pair held on child-abuse charges

Nephew, 14, beaten, handcuffed

hot water was poured on him

January 07, 2000|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

Bail was set at $500,000 each yesterday for a couple accused of abusing their 14-year-old nephew, who police say was beaten and had hot water poured on him Tuesday and who police say was at one point handcuffed to his 11-year-old brother.

Gwendolyn Massenberg, 34, and her husband, Anthony Massenberg, 29, of the 1700 block of Harbinger Trail in Edgewood, remained in custody yesterday at the Harford County Detention Center after their appearance before county District Judge Victor K. Butanis.

Authorities said Mrs. Massenberg, a Baltimore County school bus driver and the boy's biological aunt, is the legal guardian of the teen-ager, his 11-year-old brother and his 9-year-old sister. All three have been placed in foster care.

Officials also are investigating allegations that the 11-year-old was abused, said Detective Thomas F. Walsh, a spokesman for the Harford County sheriff's Office. Deputies found the younger boy Wednesday night in a wooded area near the home, cowering in a fetal position with bruises and cuts on hisbody.

"We do not know that at one point he was handcuffed to his 14-year-old brother, and they were beaten simultaneously," Walsh said. "That is being investigated."

Police said the 14-year-old fled the family's van Tuesday night and wandered into the Southern Precinct in Edgewood late Tuesday with a handcuff dangling from his legs and suffering from cuts, bruises and blisters.

The teen-ager told police he was beaten severely with an extension cord and a metal chair and hot water was poured over him after he was accused of selling videotapes from the home to neighborhood boys.

Yesterday, Mrs. Massenberg sat behind her husband at the bail review hearing, glancing frequently at relatives sitting nearby.

Ella Covington, Massenberg's aunt, wept outside the courtroom after the hearing. Covington said the family had been at her house for the holidays and there was no evidence of abuse.

"I've never seen anything like that," Covington said tearfully. The children's mother was on her way last night from Philadelphia, Covington said.

Erlene Wilson, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Human Resources, said officials knew of no previous reports of abuse.

"We talked with all of our local jurisdictions," Wilson said. "We have looked into our files, and there doesn't seem to be any indication of any problems with this family."

Last night, investigators searched the Massenbergs' home in the tree-lined Edgewood neighborhood where the couple has lived for the past five months. Deputies were looking for items the 14-year-old said had been used to abuse him, including an electrical cord and a broom, said Walsh.

"What he described was their version of discipline, but apparently the heating of the water and the breaking the chair on him crossed the line," Walsh said. "The beating with the electrical cord he didn't really see as abuse."

Each of the Massenbergs is charged with one count of child abuse, one count of conspiracy to commit child abuse, one count of first-degree assault, one count of second-degree assault and one count of reckless endangerment. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 90 years in prison.

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