Suspect in student’s killing was convicted of similar attack


TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — The circumstances, separated by 26 years, are chilling — two women attacked while bicycling alone down lonely Ohio country roads on warm July days.

The first fought off her attacker on Independence Day in 1990 after he knocked her from the bike with his truck, pulled her inside the cab and handcuffed her.

The second, a 20-year-old college student, never made it home from her ride last week. Authorities believe that they found Sierah Joughin’s remains hidden in a field of cornstalks— and that the same man abducted both women and killed Joughin.

Now they’re looking into whether there could be more victims, Attorney General Mike DeWine said Tuesday.

James Worley, 57, who spent three years in prison after the 1990 abduction, was arrested Friday, three days after Joughin disappeared. He was charged Tuesday with aggravated murder and was due in court Wednesday.

Worley has declined interview requests, and an attorney appointed to represent him declined to comment.

Autopsy results were pending, but the sheriff in Fulton County has said he strongly believes the remains belong to Joughin, who was entering her junior year at the University of Toledo.

DeWine said the fact that Worley had committed a similar attack before made it worth investigating whether other women had been victimized.

“The nature of this case would cause any investigator to explore whether or not this has happened before,” DeWine said. “We know it happened one other time.”

Authorities have spent the past several days digging through the farmhouse and barns where Worley operated a small-engine repair shop surrounded by northwestern Ohio’s vast soybean and cornfields.

Worley served three years of a four- to 10-year sentence in the 1990 abduction, which happened about 20 miles from where Joughin was riding her bike last week near Metamora.

He entered an Alford plea to abduction, meaning he didn’t admit guilt but conceded that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him.

Robin Gardner, who said she jumped out of Worley’s truck after he ran her down, said she was shocked but not surprised he’d been arrested again.

“Of course, I think he’s done it before and after me,” she said.

Gardner, who was then 26 and moved out of state soon afterward, said she still has panic attacks when she’s far from other people.

“I can’t walk in the woods alone, I can’t hike, camp, bird watch,” she said in an email. “I get very afraid if people aren’t around to help me if I’m in need.”

She said she was heartbroken over “knowing the fear that Sierah experienced and the sadness that her mother is experiencing.”

“My heart aches so much for Sierah and her family,” she said, adding that Worley should have been kept in prison longer. “I wish I could have done more to protect them but it was out of my hands.”

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Associated Press writer Kantele Franko contributed to this report.

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