The defense team in the Sierah Joughin murder trial made short work of its case Friday morning, resting after just two witnesses.
Following almost two weeks of testimony by the prosecution, defense attorney Merle Dech briefly questioned two longtime friends of alleged murderer James Worley before Fulton County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Robinson called for a half-hour recess. Upon returning, Dech told the judge the defense rested.
The first defense witness, Fulton County resident Mark Fauble, told the court he has known Worley, 58, since high school. Fauble said the defendant employed him as a driver for his former transportation business.
He acknowledged that Worley owned a 1970s Honda 750 motorcycle and that they rode together once. Fauble identified the blood-stained motorcycle helmet found on County Road 6 the night of Joughin’s disappearance as one he bought Worley about six years ago.
When Fulton County Prosecutor Scott Haselman asked Fauble if the helmet was stained with blood when he purchased it, the witness said no. Fauble also said he couldn’t remember if the helmet had a visor when he purchased it.
Dech then questioned Jeffrey Whitaker, who also testified he has known Worley since high school. He said he stayed in contact with Worley since then, and said they reconnected when Whitaker moved back to Ohio in 2010.
He said he and Worley rode motorcycles together on occasion, the last time in the summer of 2016. Whitaker said Worley’s motorcycle did have electrical and fuel line issues, and would sometimes shake and vibrate, then stall when the bike slowed. He said Worley would then have to kick-start the engine.
“But it never left him stranded,” Whitaker added.
He said the two attempted to fix the motorcycle “but it still had the same issues.”
Whitaker told Haselman during cross-examination that he and Worley watched a few “casting couch” themed pornography videos, and recalled one with a bondage theme. He said the last time they watched pornography together was during the winter of 2015.
He said Worley mentioned his plan to open a pornography studio in his barn.
“It just seemed he had an idea about it. I don’t know how deep it was,” Whitaker said. He said when Worley watched pornography, “That’s where it might have been in is mind.”
He told the court he visited the barn in question twice, once to be shown a door Worley had installed and once to be shown a space where Worley dried marijuana plants. He said he didn’t know about a room Worley had made from bales of hay.
When questioned by Dech, Whitaker said none of the videos he watched with Worley depicted mature women or adult diapers.
During another line of questioning, he said the marijuana he saw drying was hung upside down from hay bales, not from the barn walls.
Worley faces a 19-count indictment in the Joughin murder case, including charges of abduction, kidnapping, felonious assault, murder, aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, possessing criminal tools, gross abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence, and having weapons while under disability.
He is accused of abducting 20-year-old Joughin, a University of Toledo student, from County Road 6 while she rode her bicycle the evening of July 19, 2016, then killing her.
The jury will hear closing arguments Monday, March 26, then begin deliberations.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.