TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Investigators found a hidden room outfitted with restraints inside a barn belonging to a man accused of abducting and killing an Ohio college student, and they were looking into whether it was used to hold other victims, according to search warrants released Thursday.
The room also had a carpet-lined freezer with blood inside and had been concealed by hay bales, the documents said.
James Worley, 57, who spent three years in prison after abducting a woman in 1990, has been charged with aggravated murder and abduction in the death of 20-year-old University of Toledo student Sierah Joughin (JAW’-gihn).
She disappeared a week ago while riding her bicycle on a country road in rural Fulton County, about 20 miles west of Toledo. Her body was found three days later in a cornfield near Worley’s home.
Since Worley’s arrest Friday, investigators have been looking into the possibility of additional victims. They said in the court documents that he “fits the profile of a serial offender.”
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said earlier this week that Worley’s criminal history in the 1990 attack made it worth investigating whether other women have been victimized.
Worley has declined interview requests from the news media, and his attorney said Thursday that he had not seen the search warrants and could not comment.
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 fields of soybeans and corn.
The search warrants, first reported by The Blade after the newspaper went to court seeking release of the documents, say cell phone evidence shows Worley was at the spot where Joughin’s bike was found for two hours on the day she went missing.
Investigators said he had marks on his arms and bruises on his lower legs but told them “he didn’t steal anything or kill anyone,” according to the documents.
He first told investigators he had been riding a motorcycle and that he lost his helmet, screwdriver, sunglasses and fuses after it broke down, the search warrants said.
Those items, including a blood-covered motorcycle helmet, were found at the spot where Joughin’s bike was located, the documents said.
Authorities found zip ties and a ski mask in Worley’s truck and removed two sets of handcuffs, rope, tape and recording equipment, the search warrants said.
Worley served three years of a four- to 10-year sentence in the 1990 abduction of a woman who was riding her bike, which happened about 20 miles from where Joughin was riding last week near Metamora.
The woman told authorities she managed to escape Worley’s truck after he knocked her from the bike with his truck, pulled her inside the cab and handcuffed her.
Worley entered an Alford plea to abduction, meaning he didn’t admit guilt but conceded that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him.
This story has been corrected to change pronunciation of victim’s last name.