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Marilla teen charged with murder in toddler's death

Erie County District Attorney's Office

A 17-year-old Marilla resident was formally charged Wednesday afternoon with murder, charged with killing a 2-year-old boy he was babysitting. Erie County District Attorney John Flynn told reporters Wednesday he can't say much about the facts of this case and Sheriff Tim Howard says his deputies are still trying to piece together the details of the death of Ethan Bigham, who was allegedly fatally beaten by Devon VanDerWege last Friday.

The defendant pleaded innocent in Marilla Town Court on the charges and was held pending a psychiatric exam sought by the defense. The toddler suffered from blunt force trauma.

Flynn says the charges were upgraded after the boy died.

"Last Sunday, Mr. VanDerWege was charged with assault in the first degree. Since Sunday, this poor 2-year-old boy, Ethan, subsequently technically passed away, and so new charges have been filed now for second-degree murder," Flynn said.

Howard says it is taking time to figure out the details because there were five adults and four children living in the trailer home. Flynn says there was a  CPS investigation underway but wouldn't say if any of the other young people in the trailer were also being looked at.

Bigham's organs were harvested for donation before he was taken off life support at Women and Children's Hospital on Tuesday.

"If anything can good can come out of the death of a 2-year-old, and that's kind of an oxymoron right there—I can't imagine what good comes out of the death of a poor 2-year-old child, it's the fact is that his organs were harvested and hopefully he can save another life," Flynn added.

"It's no consolation to the family."

If convicted of the charge, VanDerWege faces a maximum 25 years to life in prison.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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