Jordan Buckley paused, seemingly overcome with emotion, as he spoke to the court Friday, apologizing for his role in the death of Chillicothe photographer Victoria Schafer, a wife and mother of four.
"I know that nothing I can say right now will change what happened that day, and I know that no words that I speak can bring back your beloved wife, mother, daughter and sister," Buckley said. "I understand that my actions that day has caused your family’s life to change, and my hope from all of this is to use this trauma to learn and live the rest of my life in a way that will honor Ms. Schafer’s. I would like to use this experience to prevent others from making a similar mistake. There will not be a day for the rest of my life that I will not think about this tragedy, and I hope that someday you will find it in your heart to forgive me."
Buckley and Jaden Churchheus, both now 17, were charged with murder, involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide in the death of Schafer.
On Labor Day of last year, Buckley and Churchheus were at Hocking Hills State Park with two teen girls. Investigators say the boys, then 16, forced a 6-foot, 74-pound log off a cliff at Old Man’s Cave. That log landed on Schafer as she was taking photos of area students. She was killed almost instantly.
Right away, investigators say they found signs that the log falling was not accidental. But it was not until weeks later that a tip led them to Churchheus and Buckley. The two high-schoolers were arrested and later charged. And it was determined that the two would be tried as adults.
Both initially pleaded not guilty to the charges. But, more than a year later, both have now accepted deals and pleaded guilty.
Churchheus admitted his guilt as part of a plea deal on Sept. 16. And, on Friday, Buckley did the same. In both cases, the judge accepted their guilty pleas for involuntary manslaughter and the recommended sentence of 3 to 4.5 years but put a stay on that sentencing so the case can be moved back to juvenile court.
Both are now set for hearings in juvenile court on Oct. 15 for official sentencing.