The Struthers mother who pleaded guilty to allowing the beating death of her 14-year-old son was sentenced Wednesday to 15 years in prison.
Shain Widdersheim, 32, of 28 Creed St., was handed down the sentence by Mahoning County Common Pleas Judge R. Scott Krichbaum on Wednesday after she pleaded guilty June 17 to four counts of child endangering and obstructing justice in connection with the death of her son, Teddy Foltz, who died Jan. 26.
Widdersheim's boyfriend, Zaryl Bush, 43, was sentenced June 28 to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 33 years for beating Foltz to death and threatening his surviving twin brothers, one of whom tried to help his brother after witnessing Bush beat Foltz to death.
Krichbaum questioned Widdersheim's inability to protect her sons throughout the hearing and said investigators believe she participated in at least some of the abuse.
"How in the world can she not step up and do something?" Krichbaum said. "Even when she was in jail, she was still sticking up for him. She covered for this guy that did these unspeakable things to her baby boy, then tried to protect this guy."
Prosecutors and case workers credited the twins with detailing information that ultimately led them to understand how Foltz died and the conditions in which they all lived.
Widdersheim was not home when the incident occurred, but when she returned her son was unconscious. Police said Widdersheim tried to cover up the crime and told her two younger sons to lie.
Social worker Patty Amendolea told the court the twins, who are now 11 years old, believed their mother was trying to protect them, but was unable to stand up to Bush.
Krichbaum, however, noted investigators found Widdersheim participated in some abuse against the children and that she continued to lie for Bush while in jail.
"This thing you talk about with this defendant also being a victim, is one way of looking at it, I suppose," Krichbaum said. "Not to be unkind or cruel but she was wasn't the one being beat half to death over and over again by this guy you described. It was her baby boy. It was her son. It was someone she had an obligation to protect."
Widdersheim's mother, Sara Foltz, said in a letter read by family friend April Williams, that she believed Widdersheim took the murder of her son too lightly.
"When I visited her in jail she said that the worst thing that happened to her was they took her twins away from her," Williams said, reading from the letter. "I asked ‘How could that be the worst thing when your oldest child is dead?' She had no reply. I said 'you need to wake up and smell the roses.' Hopefully this will make her do that."
Widdersheim's attorney, Douglas King, said Widdersheim told him she was abused and when she reported abuse, no one investigated the claims.
She said she should have done more for her son and cried throughout her statement. Widdersheim said she hopes to rebuild her relationship with her two sons and mentor single mothers who are vulnerable.
Krichbaum chided her when she said she should have done more for her sons and that she never expected Bush to "go to these extremes."
"Don't tell me you didn't expect it," Krichbaum said. "You witnessed it every day and you did nothing. According to your neighbors you participated in half of it."
A vigil for Teddy Foltz is scheduled for 8 p.m. Wednesday outside his former 28 Creed St. home. Family members, including Foltz's twin brothers, are expected to participate.
Prosecutors said the twins were instructed to tell police their brother fell in the bathroom.
Krichbaum, who called Bush's actions "demonic," sentenced Bush to more than the plea agreement called for, opting for the maximum allowable sentence. He did the same Wednesday for Widdersheim, whose recommended sentence was nine years.
Bush was originally charged with rape by Struthers police, but a grand jury never indicted Bush on those charges. Neighbors previously said they saw Bush lock Foltz outside during cold weather while he acted like a drill sergeant. Krichbaum said neighbors said they saw Widdersheim also blowing a whistle while the boys were outside.
Foltz was hospitalized with head injuries he eventually died from, prompting an investigation by Struthers police. Investigators said Bush punched and kicked Foltz in the head, then shoved him into a wall so hard it killed him.
The attack caused Foltz to suffer bruises on his face, eye and mouth, a cut on his head, brain contusions and internal bleeding that led to his death. He pushed away the boy trying to help his brother and made the twins help cover up the crime.
Investigators said he wiped up Foltz's blood, and took bloody rags to the boy's mother's house nearby and tried to fake a crime scene to make it look like Foltz slipped in the shower and had a seizure. He then forced the boys and Widdersheim to go along with his plan and threatened them if they didn't.
Bush washed his hands with bleach and painted the wall he slammed Foltz into to cover up blood investigators eventually found.
Investigators throughout the case detailed how Bush abused Foltz over the years. Krichbaum, at Foltz's sentencing, relayed a story about Foltz running away, only to be found by Bush hiding behind a semi truck. Bush told the boy "tonight, you're mine," the judge said.
Investigators said Bush threatened all three boys with guns whenever they wanted to tell authorities, or anyone, about the abuse. Bush also made Foltz walk on hot coals. He also had frostbitten feet when he died.
Officers noted the three children, including Foltz, were taken out of public school in favor of being home-schooled months before he was killed. Family members said Widdersheim and her children rarely were allowed to see outside family members.
"You really don't deserve the title of mother," Krichbaum said. "Mother is a sacred title that nobody should call you."
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