Teens bound over to adult court after death of photographer in Hocking County

Local News

HOCKING COUNTY, OH (WCMH) — Two teenagers charged with killing a Chillicothe photographer are now being charged as adults.

Jaden Churchheus and Jordan Buckley, both 16, are accused of pushing a section of a six-foot tree off a cliff at Hocking Hill on Labor Day.

The tree fell and hit Victoria Schafer, killing her, police said.

Tuesday’s pre-trial hearings were to determine probable cause to charge the teens accused of Schafer’s death.

Right now, both teens are charged with murder, involuntary manslaughter, felonious assault as well as reckless homicide after Schafer, 44, was struck and killed by a tree while she was near Old Man’s Cave on Sept. 2. 

“This is not an accident,” said Hocking County Prosecutor Benjamin Fickel. “This was not something that just, ‘oop’ just happened.”

According to ODNR, investigators found evidence that suggested the falling section of tree was not a natural occurrence.  

During two hearings, one for each suspect, on Tuesday, there were hours of witness testimony and investigators explaining the details about who was where and who did what in Hocking Hills on Labor Day.

Most of the testimony surrounded one main detail.

“Did Jaden push the log over the edge or, I guess, was he complicit with pushing the log over the edge with Mr. Buckley?” Ryan Shepler, Churchheus defense attorney, said.

That’s a question that varies depending on who is telling the story.

Prosecutors argue that in this particular case, that detail doesn’t matter.

“Does it really matter who did it?” Fickel asked. “I’d say no because of what we know so far is that they both participated.”

There was also testimony from a witness who was at Hocking Hills when this happened.

The teen did not want her identity revealed but told investigators and the courtroom during the second pre-trial hearing that Churchheus was the one who pushed the log over. She claims she couldn’t remember in the first pre-trial what she said, and was then provided the transcript of what she told investigators.

There was also another teen at Hocking Hills at the time of the incident. We are told she is invoking her Fifth Amendment right and will not testify.

The two teens were arrested in early October.   

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