She Was Killed by a Falling Log. Now, Murder Charges for 2 Teens

Jaden Churchheus and Jordan Buckley, both 16, will be tried as adults in death of Victoria Schafer
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 8, 2019 11:56 AM CST
2 Teens Charged With Murder After Falling Log Kills Mom
Old Man's Cave in Hocking Hills State Park.   (By Niagara66 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Two Ohio teens have been charged with murder after a photographer was killed in September by a log pushed off a cliff. CBS News reports Jaden Churchheus and Jordan Buckley, both 16, are accused in the death of 44-year-old mom of four Victoria Schafer, who was taking senior pictures on Sept. 2 in Hocking Hills State Park. She was killed instantly when a 74-pound, 6-foot log fell from the edge of a cliff above her. Authorities soon determined it wasn't an accident, and the two boys were arrested last month. The Washington Post reports the teens, who will be tried as adults, were first charged with reckless homicide, before the charges were upgraded to murder. That's because, per Ohio law, if someone commits an act they know can harm—and which leads to a death, even if causing death wasn't the intent—that can qualify as murder.

A friend with the teens that day testified one boy told the other no one was at the bottom of the cliff. "There's no knowing intent to do harm," an attorney for one of the boys says. Hocking County Juvenile Court Judge Jonah Saving's take: "It was Labor Day, and the park was busy, which satisfies the 'knowing' portion of the offense," per the Chillicothe Gazette. Meanwhile, Schafer's 19-year-old son, John, doesn't think the teens' lives should be ruined if the probe proves they just used bad judgment. "If it was truly just some kids that didn't know any better or were just being stupid kids ... I think my mom would understand," he said. The teens are being held on $100,000 bonds in a juvenile center. A grand jury will review their case Friday; their next court appearance could be next week, with a trial to start after. (More murder stories.)

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