Teen pleads guilty to manslaughter in beating death of Marilla toddler
A complex set of circumstances led to a plea deal for a Marilla teenager who admitted to investigators that he caused the blunt-force injuries that killed a 2-year-old last March.
Devon M. VanDerwege, 18, pleaded guilty Monday morning in Erie County Court to first-degree manslaughter. He told Judge James Bargnesi that he inflicted the injuries on Ethan Bigham that led to the child’s death on March 12.
VanDerwege and Ethan were among nine people — five adults and four children — living in a trailer in Marilla last spring.
VanDerwege reportedly had stayed there only a few weeks and was an informal baby sitter for the children of Heather Schoepflin, who also lived in the trailer at 2039 Hemstreet Road with her boyfriend, Ian Hart. Hart was not Ethan’s father.
Hart and VanDerwege were the only ones home when someone called 911 on March 10 to report that a child was not breathing. Ethan, who had severe head trauma and other injuries, was taken to Women & Children’s Hospital. He was removed from life support two days later.
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