Sentencing phase begins in James Worley murder trial

James Worley listens to mitigating evidence in his own murder trial (

WAUSEON ,OHIO (WNWO)— In the sentencing phase of the James Worley murder trial, jurors heard from several witnesses including Worley’s sister, friends, a mitigation specialist and a psychologist.

Worley has been charged for abducting and murdering 20-year-old Sierah Joughin in July 2016, later burying her body in a cornfield.

The state brought no witnesses, only submitting prior testimony of weapons on Worley’s property as evidence.

Though Worley is facing four possible sentences including, death, life with no parole, life with parole after 25 years, and life with parole after 30 years, the Defense began considering two of those options.

“There’s either life in prison without parole or the death penalty,” said attorney Mark Berling, crumpling up a sheet of paper with the other sentences.

The first Defense witness to take the stand was Gary Ericson, a mitigation specialist for the past 31 years. He played an interview with Worley's sister Cynthia Barlow who, because of her position as an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, didn't want to testify in court.

In the recording Barlow mentions a tumultuous relationship between her parents. She explained her father would drink and then become violent with her mother Florence Sheperd.

“He actually would start getting violent with her, pushing her around,” said Barlow.

She mentioned one incident where he chased Sheperd with a butcher knife while the kids watched and another time when he yanked a phone out of the wall.

“I don’t remember exactly what year but the police came too, probably because of all the screaming.”

She described Worley as social and gentle towards his family. She testified that she never saw her brother display violent behavior except for fist fights. When asked about the 1990 kidnapping with Robin Gardner, she told Ericson her brother told her to avoid a hit and run he held her until police got there. She couldn’t explain the violent injuries nor did she consider her brother guilty.

There was also mention of another victim, a scenario many have questioned . Eriscon mentioned a prostitute who the authorities suspected Worley of killing in 2000, though a body was never found.

Three of Worley’s acquaintances testified including William Gombush who told law enforcement it was only a matter of time before he snapped.

Last on the stand was Dr. John Matthew Fabian, a forensic and clinical psychologist who described the killer as inadequate with a number of mental health issues.

He also testified Worley's stepfather raped Barlow and that Worley had walked in on these incidents twice.

Along with noting a consistent lack of accountability for both the 1990 abduction and murder, he diagnosed Worley with a myriad of disorders including: Sexual sadism , fetishistic , and other specified personality disorders with paranoid antisocial narcissistic and obsessive compulsive traits.

He also testified he did believe Worley got sexual gratification from Jougin experiencing physical and emotional harm.

Dr. Fabian also mentioned questioning Worley about a sexual relationship with his mother, but said the Defendant vehemently denied the accusations and became upset when he asked.

"My dear son, I love you I can only hope we can be together as a family," wrote Worley's mother Florence Sheperd in a letter. She also mentioned watching movies together, but declined to describe what type.

“I always liked to see the good part and closed my eyes on the bad part.”

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