WAUSEON — James Worley’s own words dominated the first day of testimony in his capital murder trial.
Jurors heard more than two hours of audio recordings from law enforcement’s early interviews with Worley inquiring about his role in the disappearance of 20-year-old Sierah Joughin, as well as testimony from authorities who interviewed him.
Fulton County Prosecutor Scott Haselman told jurors in his opening statements that they will hear and see hundreds of exhibits over the trial including cell phone location technology, DNA, and recorded interviews with the defendant that will help them decide if Worley, 58, of rural Delta, kidnapped and killed the Metamora woman who disappeared while riding her bike on July 19, 2016.
Both Ms. Joughin and the man accused of killing her can be placed together at key locations through cell phone and DNA evidence, Mr. Haselman said; at the spot where Ms. Joughin’s bike was found, at Worley’s property on County Road 6, and at the cornfield where her body was found in a shallow grave on County Road 7.
“I simply ask that you follow the trail of evidence,” he said.
Worley is charged with two counts of aggravated murder — both with death-penalty specifications — as well as 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.
Defense attorney Merle Dech told the jury in his opening statement that testimony will show the state cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt the essential elements of the case, and that jurors should find the defendant not guilty.
A jury of nine women and three men was seated Monday morning. Alternate jurors of four women and two men also were named.
Much of Monday morning’s testimony was from those who saw Ms. Joughin last — her boyfriend, Josh Kolasinski, her mother, Sheila Vaculik, and nearby residents who saw her biking.
Mr. Kolasinski, 22, teared up recalling their last words as they split off after he accompanied her partway home from his house; her on a purple bike and him on a motorcycle.
He recalled her saying, “She didn’t need me by her side. ... I gave her a kiss and said ‘bye.” It was only later in the night when she didn’t return several text messages that he alerted her family and they began to search.
Mrs. Vaculik recalled noticing when she returned to her home that Ms. Joughin’s bedroom light was off at Mrs. Vaculik’s parents’ house, where Ms. Joughin lived. Soon after she heard from Mr. Kolasinski, who was already worried.
Officials from the Fulton County Sheriff's Office, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and the FBI testified to their early conversations with Worley during a neighborhood canvass.
Worley could be heard on tape telling investigators that he had lost his motorcycle helmet, fuses, sunglasses, and a screwdriver when his motorcycle broke down. Fulton County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremy Simon testified he found those items near where he found Ms. Joughin's bike.
Worley initially told investigators that his motorcycle broke down and he alternated pushing and riding it home, where he remained for the night. He later said he left again that night in his truck to look for his lost helmet, after investigators told him he was captured on surveillance video from Evergreen High School.
He repeatedly denied involvement in Ms. Joughin’s disappearance, asking investigators at one point, "How do you kidnap or take somebody on a motorcycle?"
He offered no explanation for blood found on his motorcycle or helmet, which investigators told him was determined to be from a female.
Investigators also questioned him at length about a collection of women's lingerie found in Worley's barn. He described the items he bought online from China as “girlfriend stuff,” later saying he had plans to shoot amateur pornography with women he might contact on classified websites like Craigslist and Backpage.They specifically asked about one pair of underwear found on his property that had blood stains.
Authorities questioned the purpose of a freezer, found buried under the floor of his barn and secured with a strap. BCI agent Thomas Brokamp testified that the freezer "smelled like bleach."
Testimony resumes at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday in Fulton County Common Pleas Court.
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