By Joe Gorman
Teddy Foltz’s twin brothers say their slain brother is their hero.
Patty Amendolea of Mahoning County Children Services told Judge R. Scott Krichbaum on Wednesday that the twins still miss their brother, who died in January five days after a beating from the hands of their mother’s ex-boyfriend.
Teddy protected them and tried to protect their mother, Shain Widdersheim, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison Wednesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court for failing to protect her children and allowing the abuse to continue, Amendolea continued.
“They refer to him as their hero,” Amendolea said through tears. “He [Teddy] saved his brothers from further violence.”
Prosecutors say Zaryl Bush, 43, continually abused the three boys for a period of years, including at times making them hit each other and stand outside in subzero weather as punishment. Bush pleaded guilty to murder and other charges and was sentenced to 33 years to life in prison by Judge Krichbaum earlier this year.
The boys are being raised by a foster family, and Amendolea said they are doing well. She said she spoke to them several times about the sentencing and they are saddened that their mother is going to prison. Amendolea said she explained to them that their mother is being punished for not protecting them from Bush as a mother should.
But the boys told Amendolea though they understood, they also knew their mother was terrified of Bush. Amendolea said the boys told her Bush had a gun, and any time their mother talked of alerting authorities, he showed them the gun and threatened to kill them all if anyone told.
“Each step for these boys is a trauma,” Amendolea said. “It’s a hurt. Their perspective today is, this is a loss for them. This is what the boys want you to know.”
Judge Krichbaum, who blasted Widdersheim for not standing up to Bush to protect her children, said he could understand how they feel.
“Truly, truly, there’s a forgiveness that a child can feel for their mother,” Krichbaum said. “Thank God that these surviving little boys see her in a different light and see her only in a way they can see her.”
April Williams, a family friend, read a statement from Widdersheim’s mother, Sara Foltz, but first told the court that family and friends called children services in both Trumbull and Mahoning counties and police “hundreds of times.” Judge Krichbaum said he found that hard to believe, and after court, Assistant Prosecutor Becky Doherty and Amendolea said no one had called Children Services.
Widdersheim would not allow her sons any contact with her family after she started seeing Bush, and Sara Foltz said in her letter that Widdersheim cast aside her family for Bush. Once, the boys complained of how Bush was treating them, and Widdersheim swore at them, Foltz wrote.
Shawn Tedesco, Teddy’s father, said he’s happy with Widdersheim’s sentence and hopes the case can help spur changes to the law on how child abusers are prosecuted and sentenced.
“We want to see some good come out of this,” Tedesco said.
Several dozen people gathered at dusk Wednesday for a candlelight vigil outside Teddy’s Creed Street residence in Struthers. They sang “Amazing Grace,” which Kelly Plummer of Hubbard, Teddy’s godmother, said was Teddy’s favorite church song.
“If you’d ever met my Teddy, you’d have never forgotten him. ... He’d run up to total strangers and give them a hug, and we used to always say: ‘Teddy, don’t do that. Somebody’s going to kidnap you.’ But he always did it. He just loved people,” said Viola Shuey of Austintown, Teddy’s great-grandmother.