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Sierah Joughin murder trial on schedule for March

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    James Dean Worley, 57, enters the Fulton County Common Pleas Courtroom where he was arraigned on a charge of aggravated murder in the in the death of Sierah Joughin in July of 2016.

    The Blade
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    The grave of Sierah Joughin is pictured at the Amboy Township Cemetery on July 18, 2017, in Metamora, Ohio. James Worley is accused of abducting and killing Joughin while she was riding her bike on a rural Fulton County Road in July, 2016.

    The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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WAUSEON – When James Worley next appears in court, prosecutors and defense attorneys will begin the lengthy process of selecting a jury to hear his trial on capital murder charges.

Worley, 58, of rural Delta is charged with two counts of aggravated murder – both with death penalty specifications – for the July, 2016, slaying of Sierah Joughin, 20, of Metamora.

The University of Toledo student disappeared while riding her bicycle home, and her body was later found in a shallow grave in a cornfield. An autopsy revealed she had been asphyxiated.

RELATED: Judge agrees to delay trial in Sierah Joughin murder case | Family of slain Sierah Joughin files lawsuit against Worley

At a final pretrial hearing Monday, Fulton County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Robinson confirmed the trial will begin March 5 with interviews of prospective jurors. Testimony in the case is to begin March 12.

“I fully expect when the 5th gets here, we'll be ready to go forward,” the judge said.

Previously, defense attorney Mark Berling said the prosecutor had presented a potential plea agreement that called for dismissal of the death penalty specifications, but there was no mention of a possible plea at Monday's hearing.

Fulton County Prosecutor Scott Haselman did ask the court to dismiss two counts of aggravated robbery, which Judge Robinson did. Mr. Haselman did not give an explanation for dropping those charges in court and declined to comment afterward.

The attorneys and judge went over a number of issues during the 20-minute hearing. From an original pool of more than 300 prospective jurors, several more were excused because of medical issues, vacations, or age.

The judge also asked each side to let the court know how many family members would be attending the trial.

Mr. Haselman said 24 representatives of Ms. Joughin's family planned to attend. Merle Dech, co-counsel for Worley, said he would advise the court at a later date of how many relatives would be there for his client.

In addition to the aggravated murder charges, Worley is charged with four counts of kidnapping, two counts each of murder, abduction, felonious assault, and having weapons while under disability, and one count each of possessing criminal tools, gross abuse of a corpse, and tampering with evidence.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.

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