Jaden W. Churchheus pleaded guilty in Hocking County Common Pleas Court to a charge of involuntary manslaughter for causing the Sept. 2, 2019, death of Victoria Schafer, 44, a married mother of four.
Another co-defendant in the case is scheduled to appear in court later this month and is expected to enter a plea under a similar agreement.
Churchheus and his friend, 17-year-old Jordan Buckley, are accused of pushing a more than six-foot-long log weighing 74 pounds off a cliff at the top of stairs at the Old Man’s Cave in Hocking Hills State Park, according to Ohio Department of Natural Resources investigators.
Schafer, who was taking photographs for high schoolers at the foot of the stairs to Old Man’s Cave below, suffered a fatal blow when the log struck her. Investigators with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources determined that the falling log was not a natural occurrence and that her death could be a possible homicide. Schafer was well-known around Chillicothe for her photography business.
The two teens were charged with with murder, involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide. They were originally charged in Hocking County Juvenile Court, but the case was transferred to the Hocking County Common Pleas Court so the teens could be tried as adults.
As part of Churchheus’ plea agreement, the murder and reckless homicide charges were dropped.
As part of the plea agreement, Hocking County Common Pleas Court Judge John T. Wallace agreed that he would transfer Churchheus’ case back to juvenile court for sentencing at a later date.
Wallace recommended that Churchheus serve a minimum of three years and up to 4.5 years in an Ohio juvenile detention facility.
Churchheus apologized to the Schafer family, some of whom were in the courtroom, during his hearing.
“I have thought about the fact that I caused someone’s death every day since it happened. And I will carry that for the rest of my life,” he said. “I realize that nothing I say can bring Ms. Schafer back, but I am truly sorry.”
Schafer’s family chose not to speak in court.
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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Teen pushed log off cliff in Ohio park, resulting in woman's death