MIFFLINBURG, UNION COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — After a year of police investigations, a Union County woman is now facing extreme child abuse charges.
State police arrested 37-year-old Melissa Keister of New Columbia on Monday. Keister has been charged with endangering the welfare of a child, a felony and misdemeanor counts of neglect of care and recklessly endangering another person.
According to state police, Melissa Keister was starving and abusing a child living in her home on Grover Drive. State troopers began investigating Keister in April 2018 after a report was filed on Childline Referal, the state’s mandated reporting system for suspected child abuse and neglect. According to police, on at least 50 occasions, Keister forced the child to drink vinegar until she vomited, sleep naked inside a square taped to a bedroom floor and inflicted physical harm.
“That’s sickening. I couldn’t imagine putting my little girl through that or any of my kids. I got three kids,” Derek Krause of Watsontown said.
“I think that’s terrible,” Ted Booth of New Columbia said.
Police say Keister had installed an alarm on the child’s door so that she could not get out. Other children in the house would try to slip the child food under the door. The child would also take food from the garbage and pick crumbs off the ground just to get a meal.
Keister claims she and her husband were the only ones allowed to feed her due to the child’s mental illness. In April 2018, the child was removed from Keister’s care and placed into custody of Union County Children and Youth.
“I don’t know if anyone knew about it, that’s the thing,” Booth said.
“We got to be aware of it and be neighbors and kind of pay attention to that stuff. If you see something weird going on, instead of turning a blind eye towards it, maybe ask some questions and see if that gets anywhere. Maybe that would’ve helped that little girl a lot sooner,” Krause said.
Police also investigated medical documentation and noticed a 22-pound weight gain once the child was taken into Children and Youth Services. Keister is free on a $15,000 unsecured bail set by Mifflinburg District Judge Jeffery Mensch, following an arraignment Monday.
Keister will be back in court on October 28.