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Mom charged with misdemeanor in toddler's death at hands of babysitter

The mother of a boy beaten to death in a Marilla trailer home a year ago has been charged with a misdemeanor in connection with the child’s death.

Heather Schoepflin, 27, of Delevan, was arraigned Friday morning in Marilla Town Court on one count of endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor.

Devon Vanderwege, 18, who lived in the trailer with Schoepflin, her four children and three other adults pleaded guilty in February to first-degree manslaughter for inflicting the fatal injuries on 2-year-old Ethan Bigham, who died March 12, 2017. He is scheduled to be sentenced April 9.

Teen pleads guilty to manslaughter in beating death of Marilla toddler

At the time of Vanderwege’s plea, District Attorney John J. Flynn indicated he was investigating Schoepflin’s role in what happened to Ethan. Flynn said Friday that the misdemeanor was “the highest charge I could find.”

It’s punishable by up to one year in jail.

Schoepflin allegedly was in the mobile home at 2039 Hemstreet in Marilla after Ethan was beaten, according to the DA. She noticed the bruising on the boy, who was struck on his head and body.

“She didn’t feel it was serious enough to take the kid to a doctor,” Flynn said previously.

In explaining his reason to pursue charges, Flynn said, “Not only were Mr. Vanderwege’s actions in killing a 2-year-old outrageous, her conduct was outrageous as well.”

Vanderwege reportedly was involved with watching Ethan and sometimes Schoepflin’s other three children when the mother and her boyfriend, who also lived in the trailer, were out or at work. Someone in the trailer called 911 the evening of March 10, 2017, to report that a child was not breathing. Ethan, who had severe head trauma and other injuries, was taken to Women & Children’s Hospital, where he was removed from life support two days later.

Schoepflin is scheduled to return before Marilla Town Justice David Wyzykowski on April 24 at 6 p.m. for further proceedings.


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