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Appearing in court on Wednesday, a 17-year-old Ohio boy admitted his role in the death last year of a 44-year-old photographer and mother of four — killed when she was struck by a 75-lb. log the teen and an accomplice allegedly rolled off a cliff.
According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, WBNS-TV and the Springfield News-Sun, Jaden W. Churchheus pleaded guilty in Hocking County Common Pleas Court to a charge of involuntary manslaughter as part of a plea deal with prosecutors.
Under the terms of the deal, Churchheus had murder and reckless homicide charges initially filed against dismissed.
The victim, Victoria Schafer, was a married photographer from Chillicothe, Ohio. She died on Sept. 2, 2019, while taking pictures in Hocking Hills State Park.
In court, Churchheus admitted he was one of the two individuals who pushed the 6-foot-long log off a cliff at Old Man's Cave inside the park, according to the reports.
Schafer was taking portrait photos of local high school students when the massive log struck her in the head. She died instantly.
The second boy charged in the case — Jordan Buckley, also 17 — has been offered a similar plea deal and will appear in court on Sept. 25, reports the Enquirer.
The teens were initially charged as juveniles, but the decision was later made to transfer the case to the Hocking County Common Pleas Court, so they could be tried as adults.
The plea agreement calls for the case to be returned to juvenile court for sentencing at a later date.
The papers report that prosecutors will recommend Churchheus serve a minimum of three years and a maximum of 4.5 years in an Ohio juvenile detention facility.
WBNS-TV was in court for the proceedings, and reports Churchheus addressed the court at one point.
"That day at Old Man's Cave, I never would have imagined that my actions would result in this," he reportedly said.
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"I have thought about the fact that I caused someone's death every day since it happened, and I will carry that with me for the rest of my life," Churchheus continued. "I appreciate the kindness of Ms. Schafer's family, the attorney general's office and the prosecutor's office in giving me a second chance. I realize that nothing I say can bring Ms. Schafer back, but I am truly sorry."
Schafer's family could not be reached for comment Thursday, nor could the prosecutor's office or the teen's lawyers.