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A Struthers man pleaded guilty Wednesday to severely abusing his girlfriend’s 14-year-old son to death.
Zaryl Bush, 43, of Creed Street, pleaded guilty Wednesday to murder charges, four counts of child endangering and two counts of intimidation in front of Mahoning County Common Pleas Judge R. Scott Krichbaum, two days after the boy’s mother, Shain Widdersheim, pleaded guilty to charges.
Bush will be sentenced June 28. He is accused of beating Teddy Foltz to death. Foltz was hospitalized, then died Jan. 26.
Prosecutors will recommend Krichbaum sentence Bush to 22 years to life in prison. Two counts of child endangering and one count of tampering with evidence were dropped against Bush as part of the plea agreement.
“He was just really nothing to this man, someone to beat up, someone to punch,” said Mahoning County assistant prosecutor Rebecca Doherty, the chief criminal prosecutor.
Bush also pleaded guilty to intimidating and abusing Foltz’s twin brothers, who witnessed the beating that led to Foltz’s death. They are in Mahoning County Children Services’ custody.
Struthers police originally charged Bush with rape, but a grand jury never indicted Bush on those charges.
Doherty said the plea deal will allow the twins and Bush’s daughter to escape testifying against him at a trial.
Investigators said Bush threatened all three boys with guns and made Foltz walk on hot coals. Doherty said Foltz had frostbitten feet when he died.
Neighbors said they saw Bush lock Foltz outside during cold weather while he acted like a drill sergeant.
Foltz was hospitalized with head injuries he eventually died from, prompting an investigation by Struthers police.
“This is different because this wasn’t, I’m not trying to minimize when a child or anyone else is killed in a moment of being enraged,” Doherty said. “This was an on-going abuse. Teddy was not just physically abused. He was emotionally abused. There was name-calling constantly. There was total disrespect for his life.”
Officers noted the three children, including Foltz, were taken out of public school in favor of being homeschooled months before he was killed. Family members said Widdersheim and her children rarely were allowed to see outside family members.
Widdersheim, 32, of Creed Street, pleaded guilty Monday to four counts of child endangering and obstructing justice charges
Prosecutors dropped the involuntary manslaughter charge because Widdersheim was not home when the incident occurred, but when she returned her son was unconscious. Police said Widdersheim tried to cover up the crime and told her two younger sons to lie.
As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend a 10-year prison sentence.