The Murder of Sierah Joughin

Sierah Joughin Source: Justice for Seirah Website

On July 19, 2016, Sierah Joughin was abducted while riding her bike. She was murdered by James Worley, who has been sentenced to death.  

Sierah Joughin

Sierah Joughin, 20, was born on February 11, 1996, to Sheila Vaculik and Tom Joughin. She lived in Sylvania, Ohio and attended Evergreen High School. After graduating, Sierah attended the University of Toledo, studying human resource management; she was in her junior year.


Sierah had been visiting her boyfriend, Josh, on July 19, 2016. When she left Josh’s house on her bike, he rode with next to her on his motorcycle. During their ride, he had taken two videos of her before heading back home. Josh spent the next few hours hanging out with a friend. Between 8:00 p.m. and 9:00p.m. he had tried to text and call her but did not get a response. He called Sierah’s mother around 9:30 p.m. She informed him Sierah nor her bike were at the house.

Sierah & Josh Source:WNWO

Josh and Shelia drove around looking for Sierah’s bike but found nothing. They saw a police officer and explained that Sierah was missing.


Sierah’s mother saw the officer and reported her missing around 11:30 p.m.

Police began searching for Sierah; an hour later they found her bike on County Road 6. The officers noticed signs of a struggle where the bike was found. Rows of corn were knocked down and officers noticed blood at the scene. They received a helmet that had a bloody handprint on it, a bloody green sock, a screwdriver, and two pairs of sunglasses.

Sock found at crime scene Source: WTOL11
Sunglasses found at scene Source: WTOL11

In “the early hours” of July 20, 2016, police contacted Verizon Wireless and requested them to ping Sierah’s phone. The pings revealed her phone was in the area where she was seen riding her bike.

The Sheriff’s Office contacted Ohio State Police for help. They used a helicopter equipped with inferred vision and special dogs but did not find Sierah. In the morning, they contacted the FBI due to the circumstances of her disappearance.

Photo taken while on bike ride Source: NBC News


A woman told police around 7:20 p.m., she had seen a bike on the side of the road as she drove down County Road 6. She also saw a man, bent over, a few rows back into the cornfield.

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Another witness, a local farmer, had been driving on County Road 6, when he noticed a helmet on the side of the road. The farmer grabbed the helmet and put it in the back of his truck. He was not sure of the exact time, only that he saw the helmet after 7:00 p.m. The following day, the farmer gave the helmet to law enforcement when he heard an incident occurred on the same road. The helmet had bloodstains on the inside.

On July 21, 2016, while looking for witnesses, investigators stopped at James Worley’s residence, who lived near to where Sierah went missing. Worley invited the officers into his home to speak with them. He told police her had left his home around 6:00 p.m., but it stalled out on County Road 6. Worley told officers he saw two bicycles near his stalled-out motorcycle, so he pushed his bike in the cornfield so he could ride one bike to his home so his fingerprints may have been left on it. After changing his mind, he left the bike and motorcycle and arrived home around 10:00p.m. He also stated he had lost his helmet, screwdriver, sunglasses, and fuses where he picked up the bike. According to the arrest affidavit, “He made the comments that he did not steal anything or kill anyone”. The investigators who were interviewing Worley noted bruising on his legs.

Investigators had a second interview with Worley on July 21, 2016, regarding his lost helmet. Worley had told investigators he wanted his helmet back. When told it appeared to have blood on it, Worley had stated it was impossible. Worley gave investigators permission to walk around his property. When they walked into the barn, investigators believed Worley became alarmed. Once an investigator opened the lid to a green crate, he asked them to leave. Inside the green crates, officers noticed there were clear bags filled with lady’s lingerie, which Worley stated he gave to women he dated. They also noticed an air mattress behind straw bales and that the floor had been recently raked.

James Worley

James Worley was born on April 8, 1959, in Tacoma, Washington to James Sr. and Florence. He had an older sister, Cynthia, and a younger brother, Mark. The family moved from Washington to Illinois to Ohio, where the family settled down. Worley lived on the property until his arrest for the murder of Sierah.  

James Worley Source: WTOL

When Worley was 5, his parents got a divorce. In an interview with the Fulton County Expositor, Worley’s sister, Cynthia Barlow, recalled a violent father who drank a lot and would physically abuse their mother. There was one time Cynthia recalled when her father chased her mom with a butcher knife after she answered the telephone. After their divorce, Florence, who had custody of the children, remarried.

In 1969, his mother remarried to a veteran. When Worley was around the age of 16, he and his brother moved back with James Sr., as their stepfather had been extremely strict. According to court documents, Worley “was an underachiever who had a 1.5 grade-point average” and an IQ of 97.

According to court documents, Worley treated his mother well and cared for her as she aged.

A forensic clinical psychologist had interviewed Worley after his arrest and determined he suffered from many mental health issues including depression, low-self-esteem, paranoia, and narcissism. Court documents show the psychologist stated Worley had “a dark fantasy life that he had relevant to sadistic sexual acts and then in connection with a fetishistic disorder.”

Worley also had a criminal history. He was arrested in 1990 for abducting a young woman.

The Abduction of Robin Gardner

On July 4, 1990, Robin Gardner, 26, was riding her bike in Lucas County, about a mile away from her home. As she was riding, a pickup truck hit her bike from behind. The man driving, James Worley, got out and has Robin if she was okay. Robin told Worley she was okay. He then stuck her with a hammer, grabbed her in a chokehold, put a screwdriver to her neck, and threatened to kill her if she did not get into his truck. Worley forced Robin into his truck and attempted to handcuff her wrists behind her back. He got a handcuff on her right wrist as a motorcyclist approached to help Robin. The motorcyclist confronted Worley, allowing Robin to escape his truck. The good Samaritan then took Robin home, who had a fractured skull and a concussion.

Robin reported the attack to police and was able to identify Worley as the man responsible. Worley was arrested several days later. Worley was convicted and served three years for the

Search of James Worley’s Property

While interviewing Worley, investigators obtained a search warrant for his property. Worley’s property was vast and had different sections to it.

In what court documents refer to the “North Barn”, they found a room behind stacked straw hay bales. In the room, they discovered a roll of black duct tape, a piece of a white rope, and a trash bag with adult diapers in them. They found a large freezer buried in the floor; the freeze had been lined with carpet.

The green crate that investigators had quickly looked into before had been fully searched. It contained bondage clothing, restrains, adult diapers, a roll of clothesline, latex gloves, woman’s lingerie, woman’s clothing, a pink sex toy, underwear with blood on them, white socks, and a piece of duct tape that had straw, dirt, and hair attached to it.

James Worley's property Source: WTOL11

Inside Worley’s machine shop, investigators found more adult diapers, handcuffs, handcuff keys, a zip tie, and a bottle of bleach.

Inside his home, more adult diapers were found throughout his house. Investigators found a dirty extra-large shirt and a dirty pair of jeans. They also recovered boots that were covered in mud.

Worley owned two vehicles, a red Chevrolet pickup truck and a green Dodge Dakota. The bed of his red Chevrolet was wet, though it has not rained. Officers recovered pepper spray, a black ski mask, a roll of duct tape, and 7 24-inch zip ties in the red pickup truck.

Sierah is Found

On July 22, 2016, a volunteer had been driving down County Road 7 when he noticed that rows of corn had been knocked over. When he got out of his car, he saw drag marks in the dirt that led 20 to 25 yards into the cornfield. At the end of the drag marks, the volunteer had found a yellow latex glove, which contained DNA belonging to Worley and Sierah.

Investigators continued searching off of County Road 7 and noticed an area where about 3 feet of corn was missing from an area of the cornfield. Upon excavating, investigators located Sierah’s remains.

Details of the Murder

Through the autopsy and evidence, investigators determined Worley struck Sierah with a motorcycle helmet, fracturing her occipital bone, and dragged her into the cornfield. He then handcuffed her and drove his motorcycle home, leaving Sierah unconscious in the cornfield.

Worley came back with his truck and took Sierah to his barn. He took her clothes off and redressed her in lingerie and an adult diaper. He then bound Sierah by tying her hands and feet together and tied a dog toy in her mouth, which caused her to suffocate to death. Court documents state it would have taken up to 10 minutes for Sierah to die. There was not any evidence of sexual assault.


On July 22, 2016, Worley was arrested and charged with the abduction and murder of Sierah Joughin. Upon arrest, Worley requested a lawyer. On August 15, 2016, a jury indicted Worley on 17 charges.


Since the state was seeking the death penalty, the case automatically goes to trial. Worley’s trial started in March 2018.

Worley’s defense stated he had never come into contact with Sierah. His DNA and other items were left at the scene because his motorcycle had broken down in the same spot. The lingerie and restraints, the defense explained, were for a BDSM pornographic studio Worley was opening.

Zip-ties found at Worely's residence being shown to the jury Source: WTOL11
Witness holding bondage gear found at Worley's Source: WTVG

After the trial ended on March 26, the jury returned a verdict two days later. The jury found Worley guilty and recommended he get the death penalty.

On April 16, 2018, a judge sentence James Worley to death.

Worley had an execution date set for June 3, 2019, but due to appeals, it was pushed back. Worely’s defense has made multiple apples, all of which have been rejected.

Worley has an execution date set for May 20, 2025.

Sierah’s Law

Sierah’s Law, or Senate Bill 231, was passed into law on December 19, 2018. The purpose of the law is to have a searchable state database of violent offenders. Offenders who have been convicted of specific violent crimes must register with their state and continue to be enrolled in the database for 10 years.

Each state determines what crimes get an offender on the registry. Crimes that qualify for registering usually include murder, kidnapping, and abduction, as well as conspiracy to commit those crimes.

Not all states have a violent offender’s database. Sierah’s family fought so families in Ohio can be aware of what violent offenders are living in their community.

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