Sierah Joughin, born on 11 February 1996, grew raised in the Ohio city of Delta and graduated from Evergreen High School in 2014. She enrolled at the University of Toledo after high school, but decided to complete her studies at home before her junior year. Sierah was described as outgoing, self-confident, and at peace with herself.
Disappearance of Sierah
Sierah notified her mother on July 19, 2016 that she would be riding her bicycle to her boyfriend Josh’s residence. Sierah departed around 5:00 p.m., anxious to ride the new bicycle she had recently purchased at a yard sale, according to her mother, Sheila.
Sheila left for a lesson and returned home at 9:30 p.m., and by the time she came, Sierah’s room light was off, according to her mother. She assumed she was still at Josh’s residence without giving it a second thought.
Josh called Sheila at 10:30 p.m. to check about the location of Sierah. She reportedly left his residence before 7 o’clock, but he said he was unable to reach her. It seemed odd that Sierah did not answer her phone, as she normally does. Her family immediately notified all of her friends, posted on Facebook, and called local hospitals. Four hours later, they called the police.
The police and FBI were primarily interested in speaking with Josh, Sierah’s boyfriend. Josh claimed that he rode his motorcycle alongside her bicycle as they departed his residence at 6:43 p.m. According to Josh, they split up as they approached her residence. Several hours later, he had difficulty contacting her.
A midnight investigation by a detective revealed that a maize stalk had been knocked to the ground. He exited the automobile and entered the cornfield. A tiny fuse box was discovered, and a strong gas odor was present.
After continuing his search, the officer found a pair of sunglasses and Sierah’s bicycle. The seat and handlebars of the bicycle were stained with blood. Sierah was apparently kidnapped, as both her green sock and a screwdriver with an orange handle and blood on it were discovered.
The officer had also observed tire tracks on the road leading to a ditch. When a local farmer found a motorcycle helmet, he contacted the authorities. The interior and exterior of the helmet were stained with blood. When they arrived at his residence, he authorized a search of his home, truck, motorcycle, and clothes. They did discover bloody coveralls, but the blood was actually animal blood from hunting.
Josh, who claimed he would never have harmed her, was cleared of any wrongdoing. He intended to marry Sierah one day. He acknowledged that the police had to investigate all viable leads and suspects despite his apparent anger.
Following an investigation, James Worley was located a few days later. With his mother, he owned one acre of land. In addition to the main residence, the property included a number of barns. The house was visited by a group of agents who interviewed James.
James was enraged as soon as they arrived at the location. The police informed him that they were there because a girl had gone missing. James declared that he was not out here killing women. However, he gave them permission to search the premises.
One of the agents noticed that one end of James’ barn had recently been raked. Following the removal of some hay bales, a green wooden box with chicken wire was discovered. In addition to some lingerie, the package contained some underwear with blood on it. The police conducted a search of the residence before transporting James to the police station for questioning.
James stated that he did not know Sierah and had never seen her during his entire interview. He explained to the police that the items in the package were for a pornographic production concept he was developing.
The police found a freezer, an air mattress, and sexual equipment hidden behind some plywood in the barn. Even though Sierah was not found in the freezer, the investigators suspected that it had been cleaned because it smelled of bleach.
James had an answer for every circumstance. He explained that the mattress was for camping purposes. In addition, they discovered a ski mask, rope, duct tape, and zip ties. There was nowhere on the property where Sierah could have been.
On July 22, she was discovered in a small grave. She was restrained, wearing an adult diaper, and had a gag in her mouth. Her underwear was the one discovered in James’ barn. Asphyxiation had been the cause of Sierah’s death, and there were no indications of a sexual assault.
Arrest and Conviction
James was arrested and charged with homicide and kidnapping on the same day that Sierah’s body was discovered.
James allegedly observed Sierah riding her bicycle on July 16 and struck her with his helmet. She had a microscopic fracture on her skull, indicating she had been struck. He returned home to retrieve his truck before returning with her after tying her up in the field. Sierah’s DNA was found on the air mattress, the underpants, and a piece of duct tape. Additionally, James’ DNA was present on the cassette. Sierah was cuffed with handcuffs that included a key. On his keyring, Jimmy carried a matching key.
James Worley was found guilty on 19 counts, including aggravated murder, on March 27, 2018. He was given a death sentence, but after appealing, a temporary stay of execution was granted.
His sentence was upheld in July 2020.