James Worley was arrested in the abduction and murder of 20-year-old Ohio woman Sierah Joughin, a development that stirred some decade-old horrors for Robin Gardner.
It was more than 25 years ago — in close to the same spot and under almost identical conditions — that Gardner nearly suffered the same fate at the hands of Worley. The 57-year-old man ambushed Gardner, striking her on the head and dragging her into his pickup truck.
Gardner was able to escape, but police say that Sierah Joughin was not.
Police found Joughin’s body late on Friday, close to three days after the college student disappeared following a biking trip with her longtime boyfriend. Police arrested Worley and initially charged him with a felony count of abduction, but after Joughin’s body was found, police said more charges were pending.
The Toledo Blade tracked down Gardner, who said she is still haunted by what happened to her on a rural Ohio road on a hot July day in 1990. Gardner lived in nearby Whitehouse at the time, and was riding her bike on the Fourth of July.
As the report noted, Gardner’s attack was strikingly similar to how authorities described Joughin’s abduction this week. Worley was driving his truck when he came across Gardner on her bike, forcing her off the road and dragging her into his truck.
Worley was able to put a handcuff on one of Gardner’s wrists when she began to fight back. She recalled a sense of do-or-die as she was nearly incapacitated in the stranger’s truck.
“I was so angry that I fought, and I almost passed out. I remember this feeling of like black curtains,” she told the Toledo Blade. “I just really wanted to live.”
Gardner was able to break free long enough to attract the attention of a passing motorcyclist, who pulled over. Gardner then jumped out of the truck and over to the man, who helped her escape and took Gardner back to her family’s home.
“I walked in and my poor mother, she was making potato salad for a neighborhood picnic. I walk in with this strange man, disheveled with handcuffs,” Gardner said.
Worley was arrested a short time later — still stopped by the side of the road where Gardner had escaped. Worley claimed — and continued to maintain even after his conviction — that Gardner had turned in front of his truck and gotten into a fight with Worley. He claimed that he handcuffed her to keep her from fleeing the scene.
[The full account from Robin Gardner can be found here.]
Worley pleaded guilty and spent three years in prison for the abduction, that in the early 2000s spent another two years behind bars after pleading guilty to illegal manufacture or cultivation of marijuana and having weapons while under disability, both felonies.
Police said they do not suspect any link between James Worley and Sierah Joughin prior to the attack, the Toledo Blade reported. They had both attended and graduated from Evergreen High School, but were separated by decades.
Joughin’s disappearance had prompted a response from across the community, with many volunteers coming forward to hand out flyers and spread the word. Police mostly kept volunteers from the search itself, which appeared to quickly turn into a homicide investigation.
In the hours after police announced Worley’s arrest, they were seen on his property with a number of trucks and divers were searching a pond on his property.
Police have not yet said how the body of Sierah Joughin was found or how she was killed. They have also yet to announce the new charges against James Worley, who remains behind bars on the felony abduction count.
[Image via Fulton County Sheriff’s Office]