LOGAN — Two 16-year-old male juveniles have been arrested and charged with reckless homicide in the death of a 44-year-old Chillicothe woman in September, according to Hocking County Prosecutor Benjamin Fickel.
Fickel said the Hocking County Sheriff’s Office made the arrest Thursday night after detectives received information about the two juveniles, who might have been involved in Victoria Schafer’s death at Old Man’s Cave in September.
Investigators conducted interviews with the two teens, and were able to obtain confessions regarding the incident.
The teens, Jordan A. Buckley and Jayden Churchheus, were transported to the Multi-County Juvenile Detention Center in Lancaster, where they will remain through the weekend. The teens appeared in Hocking County Juvenile Court Friday before Judge Jonah Saving, and were ordered to return to the Center until further notice.
“I appreciate the public’s valuable contributions to this case and the perseverance and determination of the investigators,” said ODNR Director Mary Mertz.
“It’s surprising and discouraging to know that these two boys are from Logan, and covered this up for so long,” Fickel told The Logan Daily News. “However, it’s a blessing for law enforcement, the community and the family to finally get the answers and find closure for their loved one.”
Schafer was the third victim this year to die at the Hocking Hills State Park. The incident occurred over Labor Day weekend on Sept. 2 at approximately 5:30 p.m.
According to Ohio Department of Natural Resource officials, Schafer was on the stairs near Old Man’s Cave when she was struck by a falling section of a tree. She was pronounced deceased at the scene by the Hocking County Coroner’s Office.
Hocking County Coroner Dave Cummin spoke with the newspaper late Friday afternoon and clarified some misleading information that had been stated previously.
“Two teenage boys in combined effort, knowingly and willing and with the intent to cause panic or other harm, moved a six-foot, 74-pound log, 44 feet to the edge of a 75.5 foot cliff to push it off as a projectile,” Cummin stated.
“As a result, the pushed log killed a passerby in a devastating manner,” he added. “Their statements during questioning showed intent as to understanding the consequences of their actions.”
According to the death certificate, Schafer was walking down the trail steps at Old Man’s Cave and was struck from a free falling log from above.
Schafer was at Old Man’s Cave with several teenagers for their senior photography session when the incident occurred.
The immediate cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head, neck and thorax.
ODNR is leading the ongoing investigation with the assistance of the Hocking County Prosecutor, Hocking County Sheriff’s Office, Hocking County Coroner, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Ohio State Highway Patrol, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Southern Ohio Crime Stoppers.
Fickel said there could possibly be more serious charges filed at a later date, as there is still more information coming into law enforcement on the incident.
“There are still a lot of unknowns in this case,” Fickel concluded.
The Logan Daily News will keep its readers informed as more details are released.