Plea deal in works for one of youths alleged to be involved in Hocking Hills death
Logan, Ohio — Delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the trial for one of the two youths alleged to have killed a woman at Hocking Hills State Park is now scheduled for September.
The other youth has worked out a plea deal with the Hocking County Prosecutor’s Office.
Jaden W. Churchheus and Jordan A. Buckley, both of Hocking County’s Logan, are alleged to have caused the Sept. 2, 2019, death of 44-year-old Chillicothe photographer Victoria Shafer at Hocking Hills State Park.
The two Hocking County youths – who were each 16 years old at the time of the incident – were originally charged with murder and bound over to the Hocking County Common Pleas Court for trial. Such a charge is considered an unclassified felony punishable by up to life in prison.
It is important to note that all parties are operating under a judicial gag order. Thus the parties are prohibited to speak about any aspect of either of the cases.
However, and based on information provided by Hocking County Clerk of Courts Sharon Edwards, Churchheus’ nine September trial dates – and reserved before Hocking County Common Pleas Court Judge John T Wallace – were orally vacated Aug. 17 with a journal entry made Aug. 18.
Details of the plea agreement were not forwarded to the clerk of courts and possibly are still being worked on by the parties, Edwards said.
Should the case involving Churchheus be remanded back to juvenile court, the agreement’s details almost certainly will be sealed, Edwards said.
Also – and again based on the latest posting on the Hocking County Clerk of Court’s online-available docket for Buckley – a single trial date of Sept. 28 – and likewise before Judge Wallace – has been set.
Some of the details of the Labor Day 2019 incident allege the two youths caused a 74-pound, six-foot long log to strike and kill Shafer.
Shafer was said to be at the park in order to take graduation photographs of several area students, none of whom were injured during the incident.
Investigators with the Ohio DNR and the Hocking County Sheriffs Office allege Schafer was standing about 75 feet below and on a staircase at Old Man’s Cave, located within the 2,356-acre Hocking Hills State Park, when she was killed instantly by the log.
Investigators allege the log was removed from a pile about 40 feet from the ledge, which was above a second ledge before the final drop to where Shafer is said to have been, a Hocking County assistant prosecutor said before the gag order was issued.
The Hocking County assistant prosecutor also said that a video of testimony taken by investigators alleges that Churchheus flipped the log over a downed tree while Buckley is alleged to have pushed the log.
Ohio Outdoor News will continue to follow any developments regarding this case.