A dream-like summer in rural Ohio becomes a nightmare for a community as the murder of 20-year-old Sieriah Jougin, uncovers a heinous monster lurking in their quiet hamlet for over 30 years. This case is not the first, but it may be the beginning of solving many other cold cases in this traumatized community of rural Ohio.
The Disappearance of Sieriah Jougin
On July 19, 2016. In Fulton County, Ohio, Sieriah Joughin, a 20-year-old University of Toledo student, was riding her bicycle through the rural roads of northern Ohio, accompanied by her long-time boyfriend, Josh Kolanski. Josh was riding his motorcycle while Sieriah rode her purple bike. The couple had been dating since middle school and enjoyed the summer together before school started. On this ride, Josh takes a picture of Sieriah riding her bike down the road with cornfields stretching into the distance behind her. In the picture, Sieriah is smiling, her sunglasses catching the evening sun as her neon yellow tank top and shorts catch the summer breeze.
The couple separated near Evergreen High School on County Road 6 near the town of Metamora around 6:45 pm. Sieriah continued toward her home, which was less than a mile away. Her boyfriend turned around and returned home on his motorcycle. The couple agreed to stay in contact via text. However, Sieriah was never heard from again.
Unable to reach Sieriah, Josh calls Sieriah’s parents, who give him shocking news, Sieriah never came home. According to reports, Sieriah’s parents contacted Fulton County Sheriff’s department a little after 10 pm to report Sieriah missing. Josh also tells investigators that he’s been trying to reach her, but all of his calls have gone to voicemail. Deputies immediately respond and begin searching the area where Sieriah was last seen. Armed with the last picture taken by Josh, they search nearby roadsides and ditches. They fear that she may have been struck by a car on her way home.
The Search for Sieriah Jougin
While searching the area where Sieriah was last seen. A Deputy finds something unusual on the side of the road: several stalks of corn have been trampled. Additionally, motorcycle tracks are leaving the area. The Deputy looks a little closer and catches a reflection in a cornfield; several rows into the cornfield is Sieriah’s purple bicycle. The bicycle stands upright with its front tire facing the road as if it’s been carefully placed there. Along with the bicycle, the Deputy finds what they describe in their report as signs of a struggle, trampled corn, discarded items, and, most concerning, blood on the ground and on the bike itself. The scene tells a story of a struggle but no clues as to where Sieriah has gone.
She feared the worst. Deputies ping Sieriah’s phone and fit bit, showing it to still be in the area where her bike was found. Authorities are certain that there has been a struggle, and they fear that if she was abducted, she could have crossed state lines to the north. They contacted law enforcement in Michigan and the FBI to assist. Authorities also asked for the public’s help locating Sieriah, providing her clothing description and the bike that she was riding.
Shortly into the search, the owner of the cornfield comes forward and provides a black motorcycle helmet to law enforcement. The helmet has a bloody handprint on it. The farmer explains that he found the helmet on County Road 6 while driving with his son. He had his son get out of the truck and toss the helmet into the back. He not thinking anything of it until hearing about the disappearance.
Because of the motorcycle tracks and the helmet, law enforcement knows they are looking for a motorcyclist as a possible suspect. They then turn to look at the one person they know who rides a motorcycle and is the last person to see Sieriah, her boyfriend, Josh. According to an article by People Magazine, Josh has been cooperating with authorities and is adamant that he and Sieriah parted on good terms. Authorities get permission from Josh to search his vehicles and his house.
The search turns up something alarming, a pair of coveralls covered in what is determined to be blood. Authorities confront Josh about the find, and he explains that it is blood, but it’s from a hunting trip, that it’s deer blood. A quick test of the blood confirmed that the blood was not human. With no more leads and the critical 48-hour window closing, authorities begin going door to door seeking information. The 48-hour window is critical because the odds of finding a person decrease drastically after that time.
Suspect James Worley
Early on the morning of July 20, authorities began canvassing the area for witnesses. They spoke to residents of the rural community to gather information. The canvassing leads deputies several miles south on County Road 6 from where Sieriah’s bike was found to a property located at 10627 county road 6, in Delta, Ohio, the home of James Worley. When James begins speaking, authorities can’t believe what they hear.
They call it a “spontaneous utterance”. It’s when a person is so nervous that they can’t help but talk and talk about what’s on their mind. In the case of James Worley, he clearly shows what’s on his mind by what he says to law enforcement. In a warrant affidavit, authorities state that while speaking with Worley, he made several statements that he “hadn’t stolen anything or killed anyone.” He also explained that he had been in the area where Sieriah had disappeared when his motorcycle died on him. He told authorities he had lost his black motorcycle helmet, sunglasses, a screwdriver, and several fuses. The warrant states that none of this information was released to the public. The only way for Worley to know what was at the scene was for him to have been there as well.
The investigators were also told by Worley that he discovered two bicycles in a field. He claimed to have taken one of them but left the purple one because it might contain his fingerprints. While speaking with Worley, authorities also noticed fresh marks on his arms and bruises on his legs, indicating he was struggling.
Warrant to Search his Property
Based on these findings and Worley’s unusual demeanor, they apply for and are granted a warrant to search his property. What authorities find there shocks everyone, prompting more questions than answers. Inside a barn on Worley’s three-acre property, investigators found several pairs of women’s underwear, clothing, jewelry, gags, zip ties, and BDSM equipment, all of which Worley disturbingly calls “girlfriend stuff.”
—opening the freezer, and they find it lined with carpet and giving off the overwhelming stench of bleach and decomposition. The carpet of the freezer tests positive for blood, as does a pair of underwear, but it’s unclear where it came from or who it belongs to. Blood is also found on Worley’s motorcycle, and handcuffs and a ski mask are found inside his truck.
Worley tells investigators that all the items are for a pornography studio he was planning to set up. This leads investigators to find several recording devices, cameras, and what Worley calls his “nanny cam.”
The Arrest of Worley and The Brutal Murder of Sieriah Jougin
Investigators arrest Worley and begin searching the property for Sieriah. They bring in excavators while dive teams search nearby ponds and authorities scour the property. Law enforcement takes DNA samples from Worley and several items found in the barn and the hidden room. The results come back quickly. Sieriaha’s DNA shows up on duct tape, and an air mattress is found in the barn. Investigators have confirmed that Sieriah was in Worley’s barn. However, they still need to find something to indicate where she is. On July 22, three days after her disappearance, Sieriah’s body was found on county Road 7 in Delta, Ohio.
The discovery, while horrifying, gave Sieriah’s family and friends closure.
A warrant for Worley’s cell phone records showed that he had been in the area where Sieriah’s bike was found for nearly two hours the night she disappeared and that he was also in the area where her body was discovered, according to court documents. A search of his internet history also finds the searches “Hogtied teen,” as well as photographic videos, including keywords like; Rape, hitchhiker, stranded, helpless, and gag.
Cause of Death
An autopsy found that Sieriah had asphyxiated on the giant rubber toy in her mouth and that it had been inserted into her mouth with enough force to break a tooth. A crime that seemed more similar to the Fet-Life murders than what actually ended up being her cause of death . of Despite the bondage equipment and indications that Worley was a sado-sexual predator, no signs of sexual assault were found on Sieriah, according to the coroner’s report.
A study published by Chef Medical Examiner Dr. Donald Reay of King County Washington in 1992 indicated that hogtying could directly lead to positional Asphyxiation when a subject is made to lay on their chest and abdomen. Positional Asphyxiation is most commonly seen when law enforcement restrains a subject and leaves them in a position where they cannot get enough air into their lungs due to the positioning they are forced into due to being restrained.
Other Kidnappings of Worley
Worley is charged with the abduction and murder of Sieriah Jougin and 17 other charges. The community is shocked, and that shock continues when they discover that this was not Worley’s first abduction.
On July 4, 1990. 26-year-old Robin Gardner rode her bike on Whitehouse, Ohio, country roads. Several miles Southeast of where Sieriah disappeared. While riding her bike Robin heard a vehicle approaching from behind her, and she was then struck and thrown into a ditch. She was stunned as a man, later identified as James Worley, exited his truck, stuck her on the back of the head, and began to drag Robin toward his truck.
Robin recounted the incident during Sieriah’s murder trial, Stating that she screamed and Worley told her, “I’ll kill you if you don’t stop screaming,”, while holding a screwdriver to her throat. Worley then placed handcuffs on Robin and pushed her into his truck. Robin could break free and ran to a passing motorcyclist, who helped her escape and notified authorities. Law enforcement found Worley in the exact location that he had been during the attempted abduction and was arrested and convicted of the abduction. Worley spent three years in prison. He was granted early release due to a letter he wrote claiming he was an honest man, as reported by the Toledo Blade.
Sentencing of Worley
After the trial for the murder of Sieriah Jougin, Worley is convicted and sentenced to death; and is currently incarcerated at Chillicothe Correctional Institution under inmate #A743593. James Worley is awaiting his execution, which is scheduled for 2024.
Due to Worley’s trial, the community is left wondering why Worley was allowed to walk free after attempting to abduct a woman and possibly being implicated in other murders. Due to his previous conviction, Worley was released with the condition that he would see a therapist. According to a warrant affidavit, Worley had told that therapist that he “learned from each abduction he had done and the next one he was going to bury.”
Sgt. Mattew Smithmyer of the Fulton County Sheriff’s department said this about Worley: “Worley fits the profile of a serial offender and could potentially have additional unknown victims who could have been kept at the above-described location, “adding that he knows” based upon his knowledge and experience that these types of offenders will often keep trophies.”
Trophies like underwear, clothing and jewelry were found at Worley’s home when investigators served the search warrant. Items that indicate that Worley had previous victims.
“I would suspect that there’s a possibility of other victims who either did not survive or who got away,” Said Psychologist Charline Cassel about Worley’s case.
Victims that he was able to develop a specific MO and method for abduction, torture, and disposal. Victims like Lori Ann Hill of Swanton, Ohio, also went missing.
James Worley is a Serial Murder?
In 1985, Lori Ann Hill was walking home alone on a county road in Swanton, Ohio, just a few miles south of where Sieriah disappeared. She was later found buried in a shallow grave in a cornfield. She had been hogtied, beaten, and gagged. Her underwear and other garments were missing.
But this is not the first or the last murder that fits Worley’s MO. In an article by WTOL’s Emily Nelson, she uncovered seven disappearances of young women within a few miles of Worley’s property that matched Worley’s MO. They are listed here in timeline order:
Murders that fits Worley’s MO
1980: Bobbie Lee Wells, 30, was found along County Road F at Roads 2 and 3 in Fulton County. Her body was beaten with a hammer. Worley’s home is just a few miles away at County Road L and Road 6.
1981: Michelle Ann Hoffman, 19, was found in Milberry Park just a few miles from where Worley allegedly worked.
1982: Sharon Ward, 17, was found dead in a cornfield in Oregon.
Karen Lee Kohls, 32, went missing near Oak Openings MetroPark, just near the Fulton County- Lucas County border. Her body has yet to be found.
1983: Joann Jaso, 27, was found wearing only her tennis shoes near County Road F in Wauseon.
1985: Lori Ann Hill, 14, whose body was found at County Road M and 12 mile Road, not far from where Sierah’s body was found.
1995: Tabitha Ann Guth, 19, went missing in August. Her body was found only wearing tennis shoes off Laskey Road in west Toledo.
Each of these disappearances shows the same hallmarks of the same victim selection and disposal method. Worley fits the FBI’s profile for a serial murderer who uses what they call disposal pathway #1, according to an FBI training manual on serial murder. Those that fit this profile match Worley and his victim’s almost exactly. According to the training manual, the profile is as follows:
Offenders, Victims and Crime Scene
- All were White.
- Offenders were between the ages of 24-43, and six of the ten offenders were not married.
- 90 .0% were working full-time at the time of the murder.
- Over half had an education beyond high school.
- Half had prior military service.
- 40 .0% had a diagnosed psychiatric disorder before the murder.
- All offenders had a criminal history; however, no offenders had arrests for patronizing prostitutes.
- Almost 80% of offenders killed between two and four victims.
- Majority were White.
- Most victims were between 11 and 29 years of age.
- All victims were female.
- Ten victims were prostitutes, and the offenders had initial contact with them, known as vice areas.
- In 61 .3% of the cases, the offender was a stranger to the victim.
- The majority of offenders utilized a ruse/con approach to gain access to the victims.
- In all cases, the motivation was sexual; however, DNA was infrequently found.
- 83 .9% of the time, the offender was familiar with the contact site.
- In almost half of the cases, the actual assault took place in the offender’s home.
- There were multiple causes of death within this pathway which included Asphyxiation (n = 3); Blunt Force Trauma (n = 6); Drowning (n = 2); Gunshot Wounds (n = 2); Smothering (n = 2); Stab Wounds (n = 5); Strangulation (n = 10); and Undetermined (n = 4).
- In 41 .9% of the cases, bindings were used.
- The majority of disposal sites were outdoor public areas, and the offenders drove a vehicle to the disposal site.
James Worley Fantasy
Each of these aspects matches not only Sieriah’s murder and the disposal of her body but also other missing and found persons near Worley’s property. However, at this time, Worley is not being investigated for any other murder cases.
According to the FBI training manual, Worley most likely hunted the area around his property for young women who were alone, and he would use some ruse to get close to his victims and then attack and subdue them. He would then take them back to his secret room where he would torture and likely rape them before killing them and then dispose of their bodies in the nearby fields, keeping trophies and mementos of each victim.
Serial killers like James Worley have a specific fantasy of using their victims to help them live out. They would perfect their fantasy of abduction and murder over several attempts, and after each successful fantasy, they would be satisfied for up to several years. Only attempting to live out the fantasy with adjustments after the desire to hunt again became too strong to resist. Eventually, the consistent location and MO will lead to their discovery and apprehension, but not until several people have been victims of their fantasy. Worley had been captured before Seriah’s disappearance but was released and allowed to harm others. A monster that wouldn’t have been able to resist fulfilling his fantasy. And Sieriah is not only a victim of that monster but a victim of a broken justice system.
With additional victims and their families waiting for closure that Worley can provide, will they find it before his execution in 2024? Will additional victims be found in the fields surrounding the Worley property?