The charred hulk of the trailer where 4-year-old Brandy Lynn White lived stands in a quiet woods here on Backbone Mountain, a grim reminder for Garrett County residents of a tragic episode that has disrupted the simple rural life style that made them feel sheltered from the harshness of the city.

It has been two weeks since Brandy White died, the apparent victim of child abuse.

"We heard about these things happening in Washington and Baltimore, but this kind of thing doesn't happen in this community," said Shirley Tichnell, a resident of Bloomington.

A crudely fashioned wooden cross, which was burned at the Whites' home several days before their trailer was torched by an unidentified arsonist, still rests against a tree in a scrubby patch of gravel and grass that served as a front yard.

The housewives on the other side of Rte. 135, who often kept a watchful eye out for Brandy while tending to their own children and grandchildren, keep signs posted on their front lawns, handmade symbols of the lingering rage that has permeated this community.

"We want Justice," reads one sign. "Jail Too Good for Child Abusers," reads another sign painted in large block letters in the yard next door.

The incident immediately struck a nerve among many of the residents in the small, blue-collar towns along the southwestern edge of Garrett County, such as Brandy's home of Bloomington, where extended families and lifelong friendships abound.

Although a strong work ethic is firmly entrenched in these communities, the recent closing of a coal mine that employed many residents of Backbone Mountain and surrounding areas has left many without work, creating anger and frustrations that were manifested over Brandy's death.

"I don't want to have to leave, but there ain't no work," said Bob Goodwin, 26, who worked at a coal mine in nearby Bayard, W.Va., until it shut down several months ago. But "that plus what happened to the little girl doesn't really make you want to stick around."

Brandy's mother, Donna White, 26, and the man she lived with, Bruce Sarver, 29, were arrested and charged with child abuse after the girl was taken to the hospital.

On Wednesday, Sarver and White were indicted by a Garrett County grand jury on charges of felonious homicide, child abuse, and assault and battery. Each is being held on $100,000 bond.

Despite the indictments, residents of the proud rural towns in the county said the incident had left open wounds that will not heal easily.

For some residents, the burned trailer where Brandy lived with her mother, Sarver, her brother Delbert, 8, and her 14-month-old sister Amber, stands as a reminder to that pain.

"When they carried that little girl out of the trailer, I sat on my porch and cried," said Tichnell, who lives across the road from the trailer.

"If I had known something was wrong or if I heard that child crying, I would have been over there and they would have had to put me in jail," she added.

"I think we should write the governor about this," said Louis Tichnell, 58, a mechanic at the Westvaco paper mill.

"I'm not a nosy person; I mind my own business," said Anita Goodwin, Tichnell's neighbor, her deep-set blue eyes narrowing to a sharp stare.

"But people knowed something was going on over there in that trailer, and they didn't do nothing. Lord knows I can't understand how they let that happen," Goodwin said.

After Brandy's death, outraged residents criticized police and the local social service agency for not responding to their suspicions that she was being abused.

One resident complained that she called social workers at least 15 times to report that the child had not been seen for weeks at a time, but that those reports were never investigated.

Robert Shaffer, the director of the county social service agency, said a social worker and a state trooper visited the trailer after one such complaint, but left after talking to Brandy and her mother.

At a protest last week in the lakefront resort of Oakland, more than 100 residents from nearby towns who had heard about the incident converged on the parking lot of the Garrett County Social Services Administration and then marched to the county courthouse where White and Sarver are being held pending their trials.

Some said they considered Brandy's death a tragic and unforgivable example of how "the system" has ignored the needs of those who are most vulnerable, something that they thought would not happen in their back yards.

After an investigation into the incident, the Maryland Human Resources Administration cleared local officials of any negligence in their handling of the case.

But many residents said their frustration is not only with authorities who they believed neglected to act responsibly.

There is also the gnawing feeling that, somehow, the residents should have been able to protect one of their own.

"It's sticking in everybody's craw. I think people kind of blame themselves in a way," said Robert Smith, 45, who lives across the road from the trailer with his wife and son. "Everybody knowed that little girl, and they ain't going to forget what happened."