The Ohio Supreme Court last Thursday affirmed the death penalty imposed on James Worley for the 2016 murder of Sierah Joughin.
The 20-year-old Metamora resident disappeared July 19 while on an evening bicycle ride on County Road 6. Her body was found three days later in a shallow grave in a cornfield not far from the abduction site.
Worley was found guilty on all counts March 27, 2018, and was sentenced to death.
In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court rejected Worley’s appeal of the murder conviction and sentence for the death of Joughin, including his contention that jury selection in Fulton County and the trial itself was tainted by revelations of a similar attack of a woman by him in 1990.
At Worley’s trial, Robin Gardner testified about her encounter with Worley in July 1990. Gardner was 26 years old at the time and was riding her bike in a rural area near Whitehouse.
Worley was found guilty of abduction in a Lucas County court, and spent just under three years in prison.
Writing for the Court, Justice Michael P. Donnelly stated the evidence of Worley’s abduction of Gardner established a modus operandi tending to prove Worley’s identity as the person who kidnapped and killed Joughin.
“The similarities between Worley’s abduction of Gardner and the evidence of his kidnapping and assault of Joughin are striking,” the opinion written by Donnelly stated. “Indeed, the trial court correctly determined that Gardner’s testimony was offered for a proper purpose—i.e., to prove the identity of Joughin’s killer.”
The Supreme Court also rejected Worley’s other legal claims contesting his conviction and sentence.
Donnelly further stated that Worley’s murder of Joughin was not a crime of impulse. He wrote that Worley had spent significant time, including on the day of the offense, watching pornographic videos showing young women being bound and strangled, and that Worley was resolved to murder Joughin to escape detection for kidnapping her.
The Ohio Supreme Court ordered the death sentence to be carried out by the warden of the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility on May 20, 2025.