When Monique Beneke moved into the house on Bayberry Road in Edgewood a few months ago, the neighbors welcomed her and her four children.
"Cause my husband is retired Army," said resident Mary Carle. "I [gave them] the welcome mat as much as I could."
But one of those children, a 4-year old girl, was a step-child and Beneke is now charged with abusing, neglecting and assaulting her in the weeks that followed. Answering a call from Edgewood Elementary School, deputies recently learned of the child's treatment.
"The deputy observed what appeared to be grab marks on the child and also it was reported the child may have been burned and it appeared that the child did have some burn injuries... minor burn injuries to their fingers and hands," said Edward Hopkins of the Harford County Sheriff's Office.
According to charging documents, in addition to hitting the young victim, the mother also allegedly burned her hand with a lighter after she was caught trying to steal yogurt and marshmallows from the house.
She also locked the bathrooms after the child was caught drinking from a toilet.
A search of the house revealed Beneke's biological children had nice rooms and clothes to match, while the step-child had a urine-soaked bed with older, worn clothing and no other possessions.
"We were all talking about what was going on up there," said Dominick Butindaro who lives a few doors down, "We see DEA and FBI taking stuff in and out and we didn't know what was going on."
It appears Beneke had married in April of this year before moving to Harford County from Hawaii, while her husband, who is also in the service, remained behind.
"Kids are nicely dressed... hair is all done up really nice," said Carle, "No. I never would have imagined."
Along with her injuries, the 4-year-old's ribs were showing and she only weighed 28 pounds.
The stepmother is being held with no bond at the Harford County Detention center.