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Mother who tried to cover up her son’s killing seeks freedom

YOUNGSTOWN — Shain P. Widdersheim, 41, sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2013 for allowing her boyfriend to abuse her three sons, including the one he killed, has asked Judge R. Scott Krichbaum of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to allow her to leave prison early.

Her son, Teddy Foltz, 14, was killed in January 2012, five days after a beating he received from the boyfriend, Zaryl Bush of Struthers.

Widdersheim has an expected date of Dec. 30, 2027, to leave prison, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction — in just under six years.

But under Ohio law, Widdersheim is eligible now for judicial release, according to a filing by attorney James Gentile. Judicial release is a determination by the judge who sentenced someone that the defendant should be released early.

Krichbaum sentenced Widdersheim in September 2013 after she pleaded guilty to four counts of child endangering and one count of obstructing justice. The last of the two child-endangering counts were related to her twin sons who survived.

Bush, then 43, of Creed Street, was sentenced to 33 years to life in prison after he pleaded guilty to aggravated murder in Teddy’s death, plus four counts of child endangering, two counts of intimidation and one count of tampering with evidence.

Prosecutors and police said Widdersheim kept family and others from seeing Teddy and his twin brothers, then 11, and that Bush abused all three for a significant period of time, including forcing the twins to beat

Foltz as well as beating all three himself.

“You don’t deserve the title of mother,” Krichbaum told Widdersheim on the day he sentenced her. “Mother is a sacred title no one should call you.”

Gentile’s filing states that prosecutors had recommended a 10-year sentence for Widdersheim and that the recommendation was based on the facts of the case and Widdersheim’s “cooperation with the state in the prosecution of” Bush.

The filing states that Widdersheim was not present during the attack that killed Teddy “but agreed with Bush to present a story to law enforcement explaining the death as accidental in order to protect Bush.”

Mahoning County prosecutors have not yet responded to the Widdersheim filing.

Gentile’s filing quotes remarks he says Krichbaum made at the sentencing hearing: “I think you committed crimes against these children, and if you were abused and you were the victim of domestic violence yourself, I suppose in some way that explains why you did nothing, but it does not in any way excuse your responsibility, your obligation to protect your children.”

Gentile says Widdersheim should be released because she cooperated fully with the adoption of her twins into a good home with their biological father’s brother. Widdersheim opposed her mother getting custody of the twins “since she herself was abused and neglected while growing up,” the filing notes.

SUPPORTIVE

The filing contains a letter written by “Chaplain Reed” of the Ohio Reformatory for Women, on Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction letterhead listing 46 programs Widdersheim has participated in during her time in prison, including “baptism,” “life management skills,” “trauma” and “empowerment.”

The chaplain stated that “upon release she has a good church support, employment opportunities and housing. She has remained active in her rehabilitation and displayed leadership in various programs.”

An ODRC inmate evaluation included in the filing gave her perfect 10 scores in each of seven categories, such as attitude, initiative and dependability.

Widdersheim included a letter talking about being molested by her maternal grandfather when she was a child. “It only ended because he died of cancer,” she wrote.

erunyan@vindy.com

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