Ohio Teens May Be Tried in Adult Court for Killing Photographer With Log

Victor Westerkamp
By Victor Westerkamp
November 8USshare
Ohio Teens May Be Tried in Adult Court for Killing Photographer With Log
Hocking Hills State Park near Old Man's Cave in Logan, Ohio is a hotspot for trekkers (Benny Mazur/Flickr [CC BY 2.0 (ept.ms/2haHp2Y)])

A judge has determined there was probable cause to bound the two Ohio teens over to adult court for pushing a log over a cliff and killing a 44-year-old Victoria Schafer on Labor Day, Sept. 2.

The two sixteen-year-olds, Jaden Churchheues, and Jordan Buckley, had a probable cause hearing in Hocking County Juvenile Court on Tuesday and are now facing the charges of murder, involuntary manslaughter, felonious assault.

Based on the testimonies from officials with the sheriff’s office and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and a witness last Tuesday, the judge found enough weight to transfer the case from juvenile court to an adult court, reported the Chillicothe Gazette.

Investigators found that the boys had to put in extensive effort to move the 74-pound log approximately 40-feet up to the edge of the cliff and then push it over the edge.

“We weren’t happy with the potential sentencing in the juvenile court,” Hocking County prosecutor Benjamin Fickel told The Washington Post in an interview. “We have enough evidence to proceed on the murder charges.”

Ohio law states a person can be charged with murder in the second degree if something is done intentionally that leads to a death, even when the death itself is not premeditated.

“It was Labor Day, and the park was busy, which satisfies the ‘knowing’ portion of the offense,” Hocking County Juvenile Court Judge Jonah Saving said, according to the Gazette.

But Ryan J. Shepler, one of the defense attorneys, told the Gazette that knowing the park was busy is not the same as “knowingly” killing the victim.

Two separate hearings were held for each boy. Miranda Spencer, a friend of both teens and witness to the scene, testified on both of them. She first stated in court that she forgot who gave the log the ultimate push, but at the second hearing, she stated it was Churchheus who gave the final push which she then affirmed.

The case is now under review by a grand jury. If an indictment follows, the two will have to appear next week in an adult court with a new judge.

Schafer was struck by a falling log while standing on the stairs below a rocky outcrop. The married mother of four was on a photo shoot with six senior pupils from schools in the Chillicothe area when the incident occurred. The group was at the Old Man’s Cave formation in Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio, almost 60 miles southeast of the capital Columbus. She died at the scene.

The Hocking County Sheriff’s Facebook page said that investigators believed from the onset that the falling log that struck Schafer was not a natural occurrence. Detectives soon received information about two teenage boys who might have been involved in Schafer’s death.

According to Hocking County Sheriff’s Department, “The two 16-year-old males were taken into custody on Thursday, Oct. 10, and charged with reckless homicide.” Due to their age, they were then transported to the Multi-County Juvenile Detention Center to await court proceedings.