A social worker who helped investigate the child abuse murder of a 14-year-old Struthers boy said Friday the boy’s younger brother watched him get punched and kicked in the head, then shoved into a wall so hard it killed him.
The 8-year-old boy then tried to save his dying brother and clean blood coming from his mouth and nose.
But the man who shoved him, Zaryl Bush, 43, kept the 8-year-old boy from helping his dying brother, then made him and his twin brother help him attempt to cover up the murder.
Bush on Friday was sentenced to 33 years to life in prison after previously pleading guilty to murder charges, four counts of child endangering and two counts of intimidation for killing his girlfriend’s son, 14-year-old Teddy Foltz, and threatening Foltz’s surviving twin 8-year-old brothers. Prosecutors and case workers credited the twins with detailing information that ultimately led them to understand how Foltz died and the conditions in which they all lived.
Foltz died Jan. 26 after being hospitalized. Prosecutors recommended a 22 years to life in prison sentence as part of the plea deal, but Krichbaum sentenced Bush to the maximum allowable prison term, saying he wished he could give a harsher sentence.
“What you deserve is the same ridicule and scorn and abuse and torture you inflicted upon that little boy,” Krichbaum said. “Actually as a grown man, against some 120-pound, 5-foot-3, 14-year-old child, you deserve far worse than everything you inflicted upon him. I can’t even imagine something worse than what you inflicted upon him. But if I could give it to you, I would. What you did was not only evil, unconscionable, it was, from what I’ve read, demonic.”
Bush apologized when asked if he wanted to address his sentencing.
“I’d like to say I take responsibility for what I did,” Bush said. “I’m sorry for that.”
Investigators said Bush punched Foltz in the head, knocking him unconscious at his home with one of the twins was in the room. While Foltz lay on the ground, Bush kicked him in the head, then picked him up and slammed his head into a wall.
The attack caused Foltz to suffer bruises on his face, eye and mouth, a cut on his head, brain contusions and internal bleeding that eventually led to his death. He pushed away the boy trying to help his brother and made the twins help cover up the crime.
Investigators said he wiped up Foltz’s blood, and took bloody rags to the boy’s mother’s house nearby and tried to fake a crime scene to make it look like Foltz slipped in the shower and had a seizure. He then forced the boys and Fotlz’s mother, Shain Widdersheim, to go along with his plan and threatened them if they didn’t. Widdersheim will be sentenced in August after pleading guilty to child endangering charges.
Bush washed his hands with bleach and painted the wall he slammed Foltz into to cover up blood investigators eventually found.
Mahoning County Children Services social worker Patty Amendolea said in court she had to convince the twin boys they were safe from Bush for them to talk about what they saw. Until that point, they continued telling what Bush directed them to say.
“This is something these boys will live with this the rest of their life,” Amendolea said. “They miss their brother greatly. They loved Teddy. They wanted to be like their older brother.”
The twins are now in foster care.
Investigators throughout the case detailed how Bush abused Foltz over the years. Krichbaum relayed a story about Foltz running away, only to be found by Bush hiding behind a semi truck. Bush told the boy “tonight, you’re mine,” the judge said.
Investigators said Bush threatened all three boys with guns whenever they wanted to tell authorities, or anyone, about the abuse. Bush also made Foltz walk on hot coals. He also had frostbitten feet when he died.
Officers noted the three children, including Foltz, were taken out of public school in favor of being homes chooled months before he was killed. Family members said Widdersheim and her children rarely were allowed to see outside family members.
“I don’t think there’s a hole dark enough and deep enough to put you in,” Krichbaum said. “The law is inadequate in its ability to punish you for what you did. It doesn’t allow me to give you what you deserve. All I can give you is time.”