WESTERVILLE, Ohio — Officials in a central Ohio community are pledging action in the aftermath of the slaying of a jogger in a park, allegedly by a teenager who lived in a local group home.
Angry trustees in Blendon Township, northeast of Columbus, said Wednesday night they will push for a state law that gives communities some control over where and how the group homes operate.
Before the trustees met, about 175 people gathered for a candlelight vigil to remember Jane Juergens, the 55-year-old woman who was fatally stabbed Sunday while running in Ridgewood Park in Westerville.
A 16-year-old boy who lived at a nearby group home has been charged with murder. Police have not discussed a possible motive.
The Columbus Dispatch reported today that Juergens was stabbed 26 times with a knife, according to a preliminary report from the county coroner’s office.
Although group homes are licensed by the state, they are not subject to local control. Trustee Stew Flaherty said communities should have some say about the location of the homes, how they are monitored and whether staff members are properly trained. The group homes typically house foster teens or people with developmental disabilities or mental illness.
Flaherty said the township also wants recourse available when homes become a danger or a nuisance.
“We understand that these are sensitive issues,” he said. “I don’t care. We will lead the charge.”
Neighbors had complained about the behavior of boys at the home where the teen lived. The home serves teens in foster care through Franklin County Children Services.
During the vigil, residents said they hope to see the park renamed in Juergens’ memory. Her son, Andy Juergens, encouraged people to honor his mother by showing love to others, even in challenging circumstances.
“It’s definitely a tragedy unlike anything most of us have ever experienced in the small town of Westerville,” Andy Juergens said. “I have been completely devastated by this.”