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Sierah Joughin family to take ownership of Worley property

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    The barn located on James D. Worley's property in Delta where authorities found a hidden room on July 29, 2016.

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    Sierah Joughin

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    James Worley in Fulton County Common Pleas Court in Wauseon, Ohio on April 18, 2018.

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    Friends and family of Sierah Joughin listen as her mom, Sheila Vaculik, offers a victim impact statement.

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    Josh Kolasinski, the boyfriend of Sierah Joughin since ninth grade in high school, testifies about the day she disappeared.

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Shrouded by hay bales, a secret room inside a barn off County Road 6 in Fulton County hid a carpet-lined freezer and restraints that could be used to hold people against their will.

Joughin-20567823-jpg

Sierah Joughin

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Authorities investigating the murder of Sierah Joughin found those horrors along with a mattress and pink underwear containing her DNA; evidence that played a key role in James Worley’s capital murder conviction.

Now, after settling a wrongful death lawsuit with Worley as he awaits a lethal injection, Ms. Joughin’s family intends to raze the structure they once called a “neon sign” to their daughter’s murder two years ago.

The settlement, detailed at a news conference in Toledo on Monday, calls for Ms. Joughin’s mother, Sheila Vaculik, to acquire ownership of Worley’s real estate in rural Delta, Ohio. 

Ms. Vaculik told The Blade during a phone interview she has not yet stepped foot onto the property, but once she renovates the plot’s other structures or tears them down, she intends to sell the land so better memories can be created there.

“Even with the barn down, it still is just a reminder of a bad scenario,” she said. “So for me, it’s just mainly getting the barn down and then hopefully putting some new life into the property, and somebody will have a happy life on it and do wonderful things with it.”

Pedaling a purple bicycle along a rural Fulton County road, Ms. Joughin, 20, of Metamora, was abducted on July 19, 2016, after parting ways with her longtime boyfriend. Three days later, authorities found the University of Toledo student’s remains buried in a cornfield along County Road 7. An autopsy later revealed she died from asphyxiation.

The settlement, filed in Fulton County Common Pleas Court last month, also calls for Ms. Joughin’s estate to be awarded $3.6 million in the event Worley “receives a windfall sum of money such as winning the lottery, or receiving book or movie rights or royalties” related to his story.

Family members filed the wrongful death lawsuit against Worley in April, 2017, declaring their intention to destroy the reminder of their daughter’s death.

The property had been transferred from Worley, 59, to a trust bearing his name. Worley’s attorney, Mark Powers, said the property was handed over to his sister as a trustee to keep the land in the family during her brother’s incarceration. Their other brother, who was disabled and has since died, had been living on the property, he added. 

But Ms. Vaculik’s lawyer, Jerome Phillips, said during Monday’s news conference that he suspected the transfer was intended to prevent his client from acquiring the land.

Now, through the settlement, family members can stamp out a painful reminder of their loved one’s death.

“How would you like to drive by a barn where you believe your daughter was killed on a regular basis because you live in the area?” Mr. Phillips said. “You see that barn all the time.”

Mr. Powers said Worley has not received offers to sell his story and a deal would be unlikely. His 3-acre plot of land was his only property.

Worley was convicted on March 27 by a Fulton County jury on 17 counts, including aggravated murder, kidnapping, and felonious assault. The judge sentenced him to death. Worley has since filed his notice of appeal. If his appeal is granted, the civil settlement would remain.

Contact Hailey Fuchs at hfuchs@theblade.com  , 419-724-6050, or on Twitter @Hailey_Fuchs.

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