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Toddler, victim of beating, taken off life support after organs donated

Two-year-old Ethan Bigham has been taken off life support.

Ethan was taken off life support at Women & Children's Hospital after organs from his body were donated for transplant to other children, authorities said.

A 17-year-old baby-sitter is accused of beating the Marilla toddler and initially was charged with first-degree assault, according to authorities.

"My office is now looking at additional charges," Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn said of the the sitter, Devon Vanderewege.

An autopsy is scheduled to be conducted on today.

Law enforcement officials have said that charges against the Southtowns' teenager could range from manslaughter to second-degree murder. He is being detained without bail at the Erie County Holding Center.


"The only good thing that can come of this tragedy is that Ethan can give another child a chance at life," said April Farnham, the boy's aunt.

"We've been told one Ethan's organs may go to a child in Texas," she said.

The child was attacked at some point Friday in the family house trailer in Marilla, the police official said.

A family friend, who was at Women & Children's Hospital this past weekend to offer support to the boy's relatives, described a gruesome aftermath from the attack.

"Ethan's entire face was mutilated, he was beaten so badly. His back is black and blue. We're told he was not only punched but some type of blunt object was used," the family friend said.

Farnham, the sister of Ethan's father, Keith Bigham, said, "This is an unnecessary tragedy that no family should ever have to go through."

Scott Zylka, a sheriff's office spokesman, declined to comment on the attack.

Heather Schoepflin, the boy's mother, was so distraught she could not speak, but relatives shared some of the details of what happened.

Schoepflin and her boyfriend, Ian Hart, were at work Friday when Ethan was beaten, according to the mother's cousin. Vanderwege, the cousin added, also was watching a 9-month-old boy who is the son of Schoepflin and Hart.

Two older siblings were at school and not home at the time of the attack, according to Farnham.

The family friend added that Vanderwege is an acquaintance of Hart, who had asked him to baby sit.

Describing her nephew's interests,Farnham, "He was an animal lover. He had a cat, a hamster and a dog. Ethan had the potential to be anything he wanted. His favorite TV show was Blaze and the Monster Machines."

The cousin of Ethan's mother added: "He loved life. He was such a good little boy. He was so kind. Our family is destroyed and devastated by this."
Patricia Scott, a neighbor of Schoepflin and Hart, said the family appeared to be close.

"In the warmer weather, I've seen the parents and out with the children playing. The parents seemed very attentive. They were right by their children," the neighbor said.
Vanderwege is scheduled to return to Marilla Town Court on Thursday.


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