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Slain toddler's organs donated to little boy in Texas, Buffalo woman

One of 2-year-old Ethan Bigham's organs went to a little boy in Texas. Another part of him was transplanted into a 55-year-old Buffalo woman.

"At this point that's what is keeping me going, knowing that my son is a miracle by helping others," Ethan's mother Heather Schoepflin said Tuesday.

Just hours earlier she kissed Ethan goodbye before he was wheeled into surgery to harvest his organs and tissue.

Seventeen-year-old babysitter Devon M. Vanderwege is accused of brutally beating the child Friday in the family's Marilla trailer. He was charged Saturday with first-degree assault by the Erie County Sheriff's Office. But he may soon face a second-degree murder charge, authorities said.

"My office is now looking at additional charges," Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn said.

Ethan, left brain-dead from the attack, was placed on life support until arrangements could be made for the organ donations.

Relatives of the child say Vanderwege has known Ethan for most of his two years and watched the child on numerous occasions without incident.

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

Vanderwege was living at the house trailer where the attack occurred, according to authorities.

"When I left for work at about 1:45 p.m. Friday, Devon was there and everything seemed fine. If I'd seen anything unusual, I would not have left," Schoepflin said.

A 9-month-old infant, the son of Schoepflin and Ian Hart, was also left in Vanderwege's care. Schoepflin's two other children were at school and Hart was at work.

At about 10:30 p.m. Friday, the 26-year-old mother said two police officers showed up at the convenience store where she works.

"I called my boss to get someone to replace me and put up a sign that the store was temporarily closed. Then I went directly to the hospital," she said.

Hart, 20, rode in the ambulance with Ethan, who was initially taken to Mercy Hospital and then transferred to Women and Children's Hospital, according to Schoepflin.

At about 7 a.m. Tuesday, Ethan was taken off life support.

"I was told that before the surgery started, they said a prayer and had a moment of silence," Schoepflin said. "We were able to say goodbye to Ethan just before he went in to surgery. I kissed him."

Ethan's body was later taken to the Medical Examiner's Office, and an autopsy was performed Tuesday. The results have not yet been released.

The trailer where 2-year-old Ethan Bigham lived with his family.

Since the fatal attack, the family has made brief trips to the house trailer for possessions as they are needed, but the mother says the family will no longer live there.

"We just get in and we get out," she said of visits to the 40-foot-long blue and white trailer at Hillside Estates.

Schoepflin said friends are planning to set up a GoFundMe online page to help raise money for the family to move and cover funeral expenses. Donations can also be sent to 2039 Hemstreet Road, East Aurora, NY, 14052, care of "The Family of Ethan Bigham."

Schoepflin said Ethan's funeral will be private.

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


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