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Jessica Keen

 
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 5:45 pm    Post subject: Jessica Keen Reply with quote

RUNAWAY RETURNS HOME AFTER LEARNING OF FRIEND'S BRUTAL DEATH

Don Baird
The Columbus Dispatch
March 20, 1991


LONDON, Ohio - Until yesterday afternoon, 15-year-old Danielle Gillenwater was a teen-age runaway like her friend, Jessica Lyn Keen .

Then Danielle saw a news report that the lifeless, nude body found Sunday in a rural Madison County cemetery had been identified as Jessica .

"At first I thought I must have misunderstood it," Danielle said. As reality set in, so did the shock. "I was shaking real bad," she said.

Danielle first called Jessica 's mother, Rebecca Smitley, 40, at Smitley's home on Columbus' West Side. Smitley confirmed that Jessica was the 15-year-old girl who had been chased and fatally bludgeoned by an unidentified assailant in Foster Chapel Cemetery, 1 mile north of I-70 on Plain City-Georgesville Road.

Then Danielle telephoned her own mother, Kathryn Hackworth, 41, and told her that she wanted to come home to their West Side apartment, near Jessica 's home.

A missing person report filed by Smitley with the Columbus Police Division said Jessica had been staying for about two weeks at a Columbus 24-hour crisis center for troubled teen-agers called Huckleberry House.

Jessica was last seen at Huckleberry House about 3 p.m. Friday and missed the 11 p.m. check-in, the report said.

The girl's mother told police she was certain Jessica was with Shawn Thompson, 18, who is believed to have lived in the area of S. Wilson Road and W. Broad Street.

"That's her boyfriend," Danielle said, adding that they had dated for more than a year.

Investigators do not consider Thompson a suspect, but Madison County Sheriff's Lt. Charles Reed said, "He's an associate of Jessica , and he's one we need to talk to."

"I think he did love her," Danielle said. The girl still has the school photograph that Jessica gave her at Westland High School.

"I'm so glad I got to know you this year," Jessica wrote on the back of her photo. "Stay sweet and cute (as always)."

"She was a sweetheart," Danielle said. "She was always going around cheering people up. She was always singing."

Westland High School Principal Richard Caster described Jessica has a "good student, well-liked."

School records show she entered Pleasantview Middle School as an eighth-grader in 1988. She came to Westland as a freshman and was a football cheerleader. She was an A and B student, and her grades did not drop when she suddenly became truant at the start of this year.

Another school administrator, who asked not to be identified, said, "It was a family thing" that caused her truancy.

"We worked a lot with her mother this year," the administrator said. "The mother was really concerned. I do know the mom was very supportive of the school and wanted the best for Jessica ."

It was Thompson who pulled Jessica and her mother apart, Hackworth and her daughter said.

Danielle said Smitley disapproved of Jessica 's dating Thompson because Thompson is black. Danielle's mother disagreed.

" Jessica 's mom told me she could deal with the fact that he was black, but she didn't like the fact that he kept getting in trouble all the time," Hackworth said.

Westland school records show that Thompson withdrew in September 1990 during his junior year because he was no longer living within the district.

Hackworth and her daughter agreed Thompson showed no interest in holding a job after he dropped out at Westland. He did not even have a permanent address, they said.

"He was nice, and he was cute," Danielle said of Jessica 's attraction to Thompson.

Westland counselor Dan Witteman said Jessica was headed for college and had made arrangements to make up credit lost by her truancy.

"The difficulties were outside of school," Witteman said. "She had potential, lots of potential."
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 5:46 pm    Post subject: SLAIN GIRL NOT A RUNAWAY, MOTHER SAYS Reply with quote

SLAIN GIRL NOT A RUNAWAY, MOTHER SAYS

Don Baird, and Jim Massie
The Columbus Dispatch
March 21, 1991


The mother of a teen-ager whose nude body was found in a rural Madison County cemetery Sunday denied the girl had run away from home.

"Jessica was not a runaway," Rebecca Smitley, 40, said yesterday. "The situation has nothing to do with her running away."

Smitley's daughter, Jessica Lyn Keen , 15, apparently was chased through Foster Chapel Cemetery by an assailant who hit her on the head with a blunt object, sheriff's Lt. Charles Reed said.

Detectives believe Jessica was killed late Saturday or early Sunday. A person visiting a grave found the girl's body about noon Sunday. The cemetery is on Plain City-Georgesville Road about a mile north of I-70.

Smitley filed a missing person report with Columbus police just after midnight Friday. The report says Jessica missed an 11 p.m. Friday curfew at Huckleberry House, a crisis counseling center, in Columbus.

Jessica had been at Huckleberry House about two weeks, says the report that bears Smitley's signature.

"Jessica and I were both going to the Huckleberry House for counseling," Smitley said. "We went to seek help." Smitley would not discuss the reason.

"She did not run away to the Huckleberry House," Smitley said. "She had not run away that evening (Friday)."

The police report states, "Mother was informed that Jessica left the Huck House about 3 p.m. on 3-15-91 and missed the night check-in."

"That's a lie," Smitley said. She did not elaborate. She did not deny she signed the police report.

Doug McCoard, executive director of Huckleberry House, has worked at the shelter for more than 20 years. He said the home provides a neutral ground for troubled kids and their families. Most come in on their own, he said.

"The basic mission is for us to be kind of a place in the storm while young people and their families figure out how to regain control of their lives," McCoard said.

"We try to help them through the crisis and try to get them home again," he said. "Last year a little over 800 people came through the home.

"Eighty-five to 90 percent of them did slow down and contact their parents. Not all of them returned home, but a good majority of them did."

Most youths stay in the home a few days, he said. Because Jessica had been there about two weeks, McCoard said, it could be that she and her family were actively working toward resolving their problems.

Telephone tips poured in from Madison and Franklin counties yesterday, and investigators interviewed three friends of Jessica 's, Reed said.

There are no suspects in the slaying, he said.

Investigators are trying to locate Shawn Thompson, 18, who was dating Jessica , for questioning. He is believed to be in Florida, according to friends, Reed said.

Jessica 's funeral is to be at 2:30 p.m. today in the Jerry Spears Funeral Home at 2693 W. Broad St.

The death of the Westland High School sophomore has rocked Huckleberry House, McCoard said.

"A youngster today can't go to the Stop-N-Go without fearing for their lives," he said. "What are we doing? Where can young people go and be OK? Where can they hang out and be safe? It's very disheartening."
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 5:48 pm    Post subject: DEPUTIES SADLY FAMILIAR WITH GIRL'S LAST RACE Reply with quote

DEPUTIES SADLY FAMILIAR WITH GIRL'S LAST RACE - TIPS STILL COME IN ABOUT DEATH OF EX-CHEERLEADER

Don Baird
The Columbus Dispatch
April 15, 1991


LONDON, Ohio - Lt. Charles Reed pointed to the path taken by 15-year-old Jessica Lyn Keen during her last minutes of life.

Jessica ran south along a deep ditch between Plain City-Georgesville Road and the fence that marks the boundary of historic Foster Chapel Cemetery, said Reed of the Madison County Sheriff's Department.

Jessica 's body was naked except for ankle socks, and investigators found imprints of the threads of those socks in the mud along the ditch, he said last week as he retraced Jessica 's movements through the cemetery.

Detectives found impressions of Jessica 's feet where she dropped to the ground inside the graveyard after scaling a 4-foot-tall white board fence.

From there, it is about 30 long strides south to a sign just inside the cemetery entrance. Jessica apparently dropped one of her socks there as she fled.

Passing through the narrow gap between two 8-foot-tall shrubs and reaching a big tombstone that promises "Jesus is the answer" takes about 12 more strides.

Jessica must have tried to hide there, Reed said. Investigators found impressions from the threads of Jessica 's remaining sock behind that tombstone, as well as depressions in the soft ground that could have been left by a kneeling person.

It is a long run of about 60 strides directly west from the tombstone to the rear of the cemetery, where a Sunday visitor found Jessica 's body about noon March 17.

The body was lying face up where the back fence turns a corner to head toward the road, Reed said. Her feet were near the wire fence; her right foot still clad in the sock that helped trace her movements. In her last moments, she had turned her face to the right, toward a neighboring farm field.

It is an isolated open corner, far from the mature trees that dominate the rest of cemetery.

Only one tombstone is nearby, about 6 feet from where Jessica fell.

Its inscription reads, "The pains of death are past; labor and sorrow cease and, life's long warfare closed at last, his soul is found in peace."

Two detectives are working full time to find Jessica 's killer. "We're getting leads in every day," many from anonymous callers, Reed said.

Some tips come from Jessica 's friends and acquaintances on Columbus' West Side, where she was a sophomore and former football cheerleader at Westland High School.

At first, deputies thought Jessica died a few hours before she was found, either early March 17 or late March 16. A preliminary autopsy indicates she could have died at night March 15 or early March 16, Reed said. Her body may have gone unnoticed in the isolated corner of the cemetery during daylight hours March 16.

The autopsy confirmed that Jessica died of a single massive blow on her forehead with a blunt object.

The autopsy also indicated Jessica had sexual intercourse before her death but gave no clue as to when, Reed said.

It could have happened before she was reported missing by her mother, Rebecca Smitley, who called Columbus police at 12:25 a.m. March 16, about 90 minutes after Jessica failed to meet curfew at Huckleberry House in Columbus.

Jessica had been staying at the Columbus shelter for troubled teen-agers since March 4, Reed said.

Smitley disapproved of Jessica 's boyfriend, Shawn Thompson, 18, described by police as unemployed with no permanent address, Jessica 's friends say.

Thompson went to Florida on March 18, the day Jessica 's body was identified. He telephoned Reed within minutes after returning March 26, and Reed questioned him for two hours. "We accounted for his whereabouts," Reed said.

A Huckleberry House acquaintance saw Jessica waiting for a southbound bus at Summit and 8th streets between 6 and 6:30 p.m. on the day she disappeared. Her subsequent movements remain a mystery, Reed said.

Investigators do not know where Jessica 's race with death began. It could have been a car parked along the road north of the cemetery, Reed said. The road is heavily traveled and the cemetery, about a mile north of I-70, often is used by motorists for beer drinking and sex, he said.

"We've had reports in the past of females being dropped off in that area and left stranded there," Reed said. Investigators have re-examined those cases for clues.

Jessica 's killer may still have her clothing, Reed said, and two people may have been chasing her, since two different types of shoes were identified in tracks examined in the cemetery.

Reed said he will not describe the murder weapon found near Jessica 's body because only the killer and investigators know what it looks like.

Jonathan Alder occupies the most famous grave in Foster Chapel Cemetery. His elaborately engraved tombstone identifies him as the first white settler in Madison County. Jessica died within sight of it.

Seven miles east of Alder's marker is a raw dirt rectangle at Sunset Cemetery on Rt. 40 in Franklin County, not far from Westland High School.

Reed and his investigators say they will not forget that it is the final resting place of Jessica Lyn Keen .
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 5:50 pm    Post subject: CEMETERY KILLER OF RUNAWAY HUNTED BY MADISON COUNTY Reply with quote

CEMETERY KILLER OF RUNAWAY HUNTED BY MADISON COUNTY

The Columbus Dispatch
May 6, 1991


A slaying in a Madison County cemetery has been designated Crime of the Week in the Crime Solvers Anonymous Program.

Jessica Lyn Keen , 15, was found beaten to death in the Foster Chapel Cemetery, which is on Plain City-Georgesville Road a mile north of I-70.

Sgt. Jim Sabin of the Madison County Sheriff's Department said Jessica 's body was found about 12:30 p.m. March 17 by someone walking in the cemetery.

She had been struck in the head with a blunt object.

"It appears Jessica ran from the roadway into the cemetery trying to escape," Sabin said.

Investigators learned that Jessica had been staying at Huckleberry House, a shelter for runaway youngsters, on Hamlet Street in Columbus since March 4.

She was last seen alive at 10:30 p.m. March 15, walking near the D & J Carryout, 1395 N. 4th St.

"It is believed she was forced into a vehicle and driven from this location," Sabin said.

Crime Solvers Anonymous is offering up to $1,000 for any information received by May 16 leading to an indictment in the slaying.

Information received after that date could qualify the caller for a lesser reward. Information can be telephoned in to 645-TIPS (8477).

In addition to the Crime Solvers reward, Sabin said $2,000 is being offered by other sources.

Crime Solvers Anonymous takes calls from people with information about any felony. If it leads to the indictment of a felony suspect, the caller could receive an award as determined by the reward committee. The identity of the caller is protected.

Reward money comes from donations to Crime Solvers Anonymous, a non-profit organization sponsored by the Columbus divisions of Police and Fire and private groups. Donations are tax-deductible and may be sent to Crime Solvers Anonymous, PO Box 1225, Columbus 43216.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 5:51 pm    Post subject: 'IT'S EVERYBODY'S NIGHTMARE,' SAYS MOTHER OF TEEN Reply with quote

'IT'S EVERYBODY'S NIGHTMARE,' SAYS MOTHER OF TEEN KILLED IN CEMETERY

Don Baird
The Columbus Dispatch
June 18, 1991


Rebecca Smitley may never know who killed her 15-year-old daughter.

"I know I have to possibly accept the fact I'll never know," she said. "That's fine because I believe in God, and I know that person will be treated however God wants him to be treated."

Smitley, 40, who lives on Columbus' West Side, is recovering slowly from the shock of the brutal death of her daughter, Jessica Lyn Keen .

Visitors at historic Foster Chapel Cemetery on Plain City-Georgesville Road just north of I-70 found Jessica 's nude body about noon March 17, a Sunday. She was struck on the forehead with a blunt instrument, investigators say.

There are no leads after three months of investigation, Madison County Sheriff Stephen V. Saltsman said, despite a $3,000 reward and a televised account of the slaying on the Crime Solvers Anonymous program.

"This one's got me scared," Saltsman said. "I'm afraid the only way we're going to solve it is as the result of another one."

Smitley said she disapproved of her daughter's boyfriend, a high school dropout. She became disturbed when Jessica 's grades appeared to be falling and, for the first time, Jessica began skipping school.

"She was in love for the first time in her life, and she was standing by her loyalties," Smitley said. "I wasn't getting through to her. I thought I'd try something else."

Jessica had been staying at Huckleberry House, a Columbus crisis center for troubled youths, while she and her mother received counseling to resolve their differences.

A newcomer to Columbus, Smitley said she was unfamiliar with the crisis center's Short North Side neighborhood, now under scrutiny by police because of its reputation for crime.

At her mother's urging, Jessica worked harder as a sophomore at Westland High School. On her last report card, which her mother received several days after Jessica was buried, she got A's and B's.

"So she was trying," said Smitley. "She was listening to what I was saying."

Now, Smitley said, she is tortured by one thought: "The whole thing I was trying to prevent happened," Smitley said. "I was afraid she would get hurt."

Smitley said she wonders how someone could kill her daughter. "My God, that's a human being taking another human being's life."

She recalled Jessica 's funeral. Her high school friends filled the chapel to overflowing and wept at the loss of the former football cheerleader.

" Jessica touched a lot of people's hearts in her life," Smitley said. " Jessica was an exceptional child."

She also recalled her daughter's ability to sing, dance and play the piano.

"And everything she did, she did well," Smitley said. "She could do things that amazed me. She probably lived more in her 15 years than other people live in a lifetime."

A special pain endures, Smitley said.

"It's everybody's nightmare, something you don't plan for in your lifetime. Nobody expects their child to die before they do. It's an entirely different type of grief."
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 5:52 pm    Post subject: BIRTHDAY CALLS UP PAINFUL MEMORIES OF SLAIN TEEN Reply with quote

BIRTHDAY CALLS UP PAINFUL MEMORIES OF SLAIN TEEN

Don Baird
The Columbus Dispatch
September 22, 1991


Rebecca Smitley does not know how she will face Tuesday, the day set for celebration of her daughter's 16th birthday.

"I take one day at a time right now," she said last week. "I don't want to think about it until the day comes."

A killer brutally stole a future filled with birthdays from Jessica Lyn Keen last March.

But Smitley has plans for today. She has invited friends, family and her daughter's former classmates at Westland High School to gather at 2 p.m. at Sunset Cemetery on Rt. 40 just west of Columbus. They will help dedicate a 40-inch-tall monument at Jessica 's grave.

Jessica talked a lot about that long-planned "sweet 16" party, Smitley said. Jessica 's dream was to have all her friends there. "And this is about as close as I can get, I guess, to make it come true," Smitley said.

One new friend will be a man Jessica never had the chance to know: Sgt. Jim Sabin of the Madison County Sheriff's Department.

Sabin has been searching six months for Jessica 's killer.

Last week, Sabin, Sheriff Steve Saltsman and Prosecutor R. David Picken increased the reward for information on the case from $2,000 to $5,000.

"We are willing to talk to anyone that has any kind of information," Sabin said.

"We are keeping in close contact with all of the local (law enforcement) agencies when they have similar, or even not so similar, incidents that may have some connections," he said.

"This case is still at the top of our list of priorities. Every day, we're getting information, but it's just not really leading us anywhere."

"I'm discouraged," Smitley said. "Out of all the rumors and information that were floating around, they haven't come up with anything yet. In my own mind, I have to accept that we may never, ever know."

But Smitley, like Sabin, has not given up. She said she also intended today's graveside dedication as a reminder a killer remains at large.

Smitley has established a memorial fund for Jessica at the Bank One office at 3100 W. Broad St., Columbus, 43214. Donations should be addressed to the Jessica Lyn Keen Fund No. 0557669. The money will be awarded for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Jessica 's slayer.

If the killer goes unpunished, the fund will become a college scholarship in Jessica 's name for Westland High School students, Smitley said.

In addition to that fund and the $5,000 Madison County reward, Crime Solvers Anonymous is offering a $1,000 reward.

People can call Crime Solvers at 645-TIPS. Sabin said he will take calls about the slaying at 879-9057, which is toll-free from Columbus.

Jessica was a sophomore at Westland when she died. She was a football cheerleader the previous year.

She last was seen alive on March 15, walking in the 1300 block of N. 4th Street in Columbus. Sabin said she could have been forced into a car there.

Jessica had been staying at Huckleberry House, a Columbus crisis center for troubled youths, while she and her mother received counseling to resolve their differences. Smitley said she disapproved of her daughter's boyfriend, a high school dropout.

She became worried when Jessica 's grades appeared to be falling and, for the first time, Jessica began skipping school.

Jessica 's killer took her to Plain City-Georgesville Road in Madison County, stopped about a mile north of I-70, then chased her south on foot along a ditch on the east side of the rural road.

The slayer cornered Jessica in nearby Foster Chapel Cemetery and bludgeoned her to death. A visitor to the cemetery found her nude body about noon March 17.

Her grave is about 7 miles east of her slaying spot. Until today, it has been marked only by a small urn provided by cemetery management.

Sunset Cemetery is just west of Westland High School, and Smitley has noticed the urn is always full of fresh-cut flowers. Jessica 's young friends apparently have not forgotten her, she said.

There is an inscription on the tombstone being dedicated to Jessica today. Written by her family, the inscription says, in part:

"It broke our hearts to lose you

but you did not go alone.

Part of us went with you

The day God called you home.

And until the day we meet again,

Your sweet memories will remain."
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 5:54 pm    Post subject: MURDERS HAUNTING MOTHERS STILL UNSOLVED Reply with quote

MURDERS HAUNTING MOTHERS STILL UNSOLVED

Don Baird
The Columbus Dispatch
March 15, 1992


The sun will not shine today for Rebecca Smitley because it is the first anniversary of the day her 15-year-old daughter was last seen alive.

Smitley, 40, of Columbus says she never will be able to forget that it was a Sunday, two days later, when passers-by found her daughter's nude body in Foster Chapel Cemetery in rural Madison County.

"I believe she died on the 16th," Smitley said of Jessica Lyn Keen . "That's what's on the monument on her grave."

The date Smitley dreads most sometimes is written 3-16, and she sometimes awakens in the wee hours of morning, chilled by the sight of the digital time display on her bedside clock: 3:16.

Sometimes, her daughter seems near enough to touch, Smitley said. "I wish I could hug her just one more time," she said. "I'd be satisfied."

In her rural Vinton County home, Carole Wallace, 53, understands Smitley, though the two have never met. Wallace's son, Kenneth Jr., 27, was slain Dec. 6, 1984.

"It's really hard when the day comes that he died," Wallace said last week.

After nearly eight years, Wallace still cannot bear the sight of the roadside rest she must pass on Rt. 50 on her way to shop in nearby Chillicothe. The roadside rest area, 6 miles from her home, is where her son was slain.

Smitley and Wallace want people to remember their slain loved ones but, most of all, they want them to know the killers are at large.

Investigators in both slayings are haunted, too. They vow that they will not give up.

"We are still looking for any information that anyone can provide in that case," Ross County Sheriff Thomas Hamman said. "We have invested literally thousands of hours. Right now, we're at a standstill because there's no place else to go. The case is still open."

Wallace was on his way home from his job as a welder in Columbus when he was slain about 7:30 p.m. He was shot in the chest with a shotgun, then shot a second time in the head as he lay helpless. His assailant took his wallet. It never has been recovered, and no one knows how much money it contained.

Wallace had left work about 3:30 p.m. A winter storm stretched his drive south by more than two hours. "I'm talking about a blizzard that night," Hamman said. Temperatures dipped to 10 and 20 below zero. "You would not believe how bitter it was that night," Hamman said. "The ordinary criminal is not out on a night like that."

Hamman wonders if Wallace interrupted someone's drug payoff.

Detectives found Wallace to be a clean-cut young man with no links to drugs or homosexual activity. The motive appears to have been robbery.

Wallace left a widow, Margaret, now 35, who had been given a year to live with a degenerative muscular disease. He also left a son, Mark, now 15.

"I just can't believe it won't be solved," Carole Wallace said. "I just have this driven power about this thing that I have to keep going with this thing. I can't let it go."

For Smitley, each new slaying in Franklin County is a another nightmare, she said. It makes her wonder: "Is this (killer) the person that maybe did this to Jessica ?"

Someone may have abducted Jessica from the 1300 block of N. High Street in Columbus, said Sgt. Jim Sabin of the Madison County Sheriff's Department.

Jessica 's killer took her to Plain City-Georgesville Road in Madison County, stopped about a mile north of I-70, then chased her south on foot along a ditch on the east side of the rural road. The slayer cornered Jessica in a nearby cemetery and bludgeoned her to death.

"We've spent hours and hours and interviewed hundreds of people," Sabin said. "What we have done with that is eliminate suspects. It's a continuing investigation, and it really has not slacked off."

Tips still come in, and Sabin keeps in touch with police agencies to check links with other killings, no matter how tenuous.

The most recent were checks of vague similarities with last week's beating death of Amy Hooper, 19, in western Franklin County. Both Hooper and Jessica attended Westland High School. Hooper worked at Westland Mall and Jessica liked to hang out with friends there. They shared some friends.

It is a long shot worth trying, Sabin said.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 5:55 pm    Post subject: CLUES SOUGHT IN '91 SLAYING Reply with quote

CLUES SOUGHT IN '91 SLAYING

The Columbus Dispatch
June 14, 1993


The Madison County Sheriff's Department is asking for help in solving the 1991 slaying of Jessica Lyn Keen . The homicide has been designated Crime of the Week in the Crime Stoppers program.

Keen , 15, was found dead about 12:30 p.m. March 17 by a passer-by in the Foster Chapel Cemetery on Plain City-Georgesville Road, about a mile north of I-70 and west of Columbus. She died of head wounds from a blunt object. Detectives have never publicly identified the murder weapon.

Deputies learned that Jessica had been staying at the Huckleberry House, a Columbus crisis center for troubled youths, since March 4, 1991.

Witnesses reported that she was last seen walking near the D.J. Carryout, 1395 N. 4th St. That was two days before her body was found.

Deputies believe she was forced into a vehicle and driven from that location to the cemetery. There she was chased, beaten and killed by her attacker, they believe.

Keen was a Westland High School student at the time of her death. Detectives hope someone will come forward with information, said Madison County Sheriff's Lt. Jim Sabin.

Those with information about the slaying or the identity of those responsible are asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 645-TIPS (8477) or Sabin at 852-1332.

In addition to the Crime Stoppers reward, an additional $5,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for any information received by June 23 leading to an arrest and indictment in this crime. Information received after that could qualify the caller for a lesser reward.

Crime Stoppers also takes calls from people with information about any felony. Information leading to an arrest and indictment of a felony suspect could qualify the caller for a reward as determined by the Crime Stoppers reward committee.

A special coding system protects the names of callers but allows them to be contacted at a later time.

Reward money comes from private donations to Crime Stoppers, a nonprofit organization sponsored by the Columbus divisions of police and fire and several private organizations.

Donations are tax-deductible and can be sent to Crime Stoppers, P.O. Box 1225, Columbus, Ohio, 43216.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 5:56 pm    Post subject: SLAIN TEEN'S MOM PLEADS FOR HELP TO FIND KILLER Reply with quote

SLAIN TEEN'S MOM PLEADS FOR HELP TO FIND KILLER

Don Baird
The Columbus Dispatch
March 16, 1994


WEST JEFFERSON, Ohio - Flanked by her family and one of Ohio's top law enforcement officials, Rebecca Smitley returned to the scene of her worst nightmare yesterday to plead with the people she believes know her daughter's killer.

"I'm begging of you," she said. "Come forward with something."

The 42-year-old Columbus woman stood in a corner of historic Foster Chapel Cemetery in rural Madison County. On March 17, 1991, about 12:30 p.m., a passer-by found the nude body of her daughter Jessica Lyn Keen near where Smitley faced reporters. Jessica died of head wounds from a blunt object. Her killer has never been found.

"It took me a long time before I could come out here," Smitley said. "A very long time. It's hard. It's very hard."

She reminded listeners that her daughter was 15 when she died. "Every fear that a child has at that age, she went through before she died," Smitley said.

Detective Jim Sabin of the Madison County Sheriff's Department has retraced the path taken by Jessica during her last minutes of life. He believes she was forced into a vehicle in Columbus and driven to the cemetery. She escaped and ran south along a deep ditch between Plain City-Georgesville Road and the cemetery fence.

Sabin found impressions of Jessica 's feet where she dropped to the ground inside the graveyard after scaling a 4-foot-tall white board fence.

From there, it is about 30 long strides to a sign just inside the cemetery entrance. Jessica apparently dropped one of her socks there as she fled.

Passing though the narrow gap between two 8-foot-tall shrubs and reaching a big tombstone that promises "Jesus is the answer" takes about 12 more strides.

Jessica must have tried to hide there, detectives believe. They found impressions from the threads of Jessica 's other sock behind that tombstone, as well as depressions in the soft ground that could have been left by a kneeling person.

It is about 60 strides from the tombstone to the rear of the cemetery. There, Jessica was found where the back fence turns a corner to head toward the road. Her feet were near the wire fence.

In her last moments, she had turned her face to the right, toward a neighboring field.

For about a year now, the spot has been marked with a tiny, crude, wooden cross bearing Jessica 's name. Yesterday, the cross bore a garland of pink flowers.

Jessica is buried 7 miles from the scene of her death, in Sunset Cemetery on Rt. 40 in Franklin County.

Yesterday marked the third anniversary of the day Jessica last was seen alive, walking near the D.J. Carryout at 1395 N. 4th St.

John R. Lenhart, superintendent of the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, admits the plea for informants is a long shot after three years. Lenhart accompanied Smitley and her family as a show of support and offered to let anonymous tipsters use the bureau's toll-free number, 800-282-3784.

"I'm like her," Lenhart said, referring to Smitley. "Somebody knows. Somebody saw."

Even though he clings to hope that new information will lead to the killer, Lenhart has been a cop too long not to admit the hope is slim. Statistics indicate the chances of solving a homicide drop to 2 percent to 3 percent after only three days, he said. "It becomes more difficult," he said.

When she died, Jessica was a Westland High School student. "She would be in college now," her mother said. "The world's at a loss without her."

The slaying has caused her family physical, mental and emotional grief. The stress brought on a bout with cancer for herself, Smitley said. The family wants the agony to end.

So does a friend, Chantal Lewis, now 20, of Columbus. She was at the cemetery, too. "We're still going through it," Lewis said. "People don't understand that it doesn't end with the first year. We just want to know who did it so we can put it behind us."
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 6:00 pm    Post subject: Family hoping a break is near in teenager's 15-year-old murd Reply with quote

Family hoping a break is near in teenager's 15-year-old murder - Body was found in cemetery; state investigators to make announcement Thursday

Debbie Gebolys
The Columbus Dispatch
March 15, 2006


Jessica Lyn Keen was 15.

"I try to imagine her as older. . . . I dream about that, envision what her life would have been," said her sister, Heather. "But she'll always be just my little sister."

Fifteen years ago today, Jessica was at a University District bus stop about 6 p.m., headed for the Columbus City Center. Two days later, her naked body was found at the back of a tiny cemetery along a Madison County road.

She has been dead now for as long as she was alive. Maybe that's long enough for someone to help police arrest her killer, say those who loved her. Events in the past eight weeks have bolstered that hope.

"If you met her, you remembered her," Heather said. "She was very outgoing and full of life. She was very intelligent, a straight-A student."

Jessica was a Westland High School sophomore and cheerleader who loved singing and playing music she composed on the piano. She talked of going to veterinary school at Ohio State University.

But she also was trying to assert her independence as a teenager and made some bad decisions. She fell in love, for the first time, with an older boy who had dropped out of high school and been in trouble with authorities. She quit cheerleading and started skipping school.

Her mother turned to Huckleberry House for help. Jessica spent 12 days in the North Side teen shelter while she and her mother worked out their problems.

She was to return to her mother's West Side apartment the day after she disappeared.

Jessica died 22 miles from where she was last seen. Authorities think that she escaped from a car on Plain City-Georgesville Road north of I-70 and ran frantically into the night.

"She was basically running in the total darkness" with nowhere to go, Madison County Sheriff Jim Sabin said recently. The area had very few buildings and no lights. Jessica was wearing only socks when she jumped a fence into Foster Chapel Cemetery and tried to hide behind tombstones.

Her attacker caught up with her at a wire fence along the back of the cemetery. He struck her head with an object deputies found near her body.

An autopsy found no drugs or alcohol. It determined that she had been raped.

"This wasn't any place that anybody from our school went out and hung out there," Jessica 's best friend, Shantal, said recently.

Sabin said he has talked to hundreds of people over the years about Jessica 's death. He has worked with at least four other law-enforcement agencies and keeps her case file "3 feet from my left hand, always available, readily accessible."

Authorities were never able to determine whether Jessica knew her attacker. Because of that, her sister and friend asked that their last names not be published. Still, they want to make a public plea for help.

"It's been 15 years. If we don't do something now, this might be our last chance," Shantal said.

Hope was rekindled in January when Jonathan Gravely was arrested in the 12-year-old slaying of Stephanie Hummer.

Hummer was a 19-year-old OSU student in 1994 when she was abducted near campus and found dead in Franklinton. Police matched DNA from the crime scene with a sample Gravely was required to provide for certain misdemeanors under a new state law.

Within days, Sabin appeared on television news shows to remind people about Jessica 's case.

"With the Hummer case, we thought there were similarities," Heather said. "When it was solved, that was very hopeful for us. That was 12 years; our case is 15 years. Maybe not all hope is lost."

One of the people Jessica met at Huckleberry House posted the hopeful news on her crime blog, www.beyond frazzled.blogspot.com.

Lisa Hall, of Hilliard, and Jessica spent only four days together at Huckleberry House, but the memory stuck, Hall said. "This girl and her family deserve closure on this.

"Let's not have her be somebody who is forgotten. She was a beautiful person. She was a kind person."

Someone recently pinned plastic flowers to a wooden cross that marks the spot where Jessica 's body was found. Someone recently left a porcelain angel figurine on the grave marker that her mother, sister and grandfather dedicated on her 16th birthday, six months after her death.

Crime Stoppers named the case the Crime of the Week in 1993 and 2001. It was featured on the TV show Unsolved Mysteries in 2001.

Jessica disappeared on March 15, 1991; her body was found on March 17 that year. On Thursday, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation has scheduled a news conference to announce new information in the case.

Her family members, now all gone from central Ohio, mix sadness with their hope.

"It's still just as painful," Heather said, "the loss of her and also not to know, not to have any justice for her.

"We just hold onto each other."
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 6:01 pm    Post subject: DNA brings arrest in '91 rape, killing Reply with quote

DNA brings arrest in '91 rape, killing

Debbie Gebolys
The Columbus Dispatch
April 10, 2008


Jessica Lyn Keen has been dead longer than she was alive.

The Westland High School cheerleader and honor student died more than 17 years ago. Now, after a DNA match, authorities have finally made an arrest in connection with her death.

Fifteen-year-old Jessica disappeared from a Weinland Park bus stop about 6 p.m. March 15, 1991. Her naked body was found two days later in an isolated Madison County graveyard. She'd been raped and beaten to death.

Recently, a convicted felon living in North Carolina was charged with sexually molesting Jessica that day. Formally, the Madison County prosecutor charged Marvin Lee Smith Jr., 51, with unlawful sexual contact with a minor. Other charges are expected, officials told those who were dear to Jessica .

Smith was arrested in Burlington, N.C., and is in the Alamance County jail awaiting an extradition hearing April 30. North Carolina authorities said he should return to Ohio shortly thereafter.

"We're glad that justice finally will be done," said Jessica 's father, James Keen of West Carrollton. He said law-enforcement officials notified him a few days ago of Smith's arrest. Jessica 's parents divorced when she was 3.

Smith's DNA was taken in prison after he was convicted in Franklin County Common Pleas Court of two counts of rape, kidnapping and robbery in August 1991, just five months after Jessica was slain. Smith served nearly nine years in an Ohio prison and was paroled in 2000.

During Smith's prison stay, at least four local law-enforcement agencies were investigating Jessica 's death.

Smith's DNA, taken after a 1996 Ohio law required certain felons to submit samples, matched DNA authorities took from the crime scene. It was unclear last night when the match was made.

Jessica was a sophomore at Westland who loved to sing and compose piano music. She dreamed of veterinary school at Ohio State.

Then she fell in love for the first time, her friends previously told The Dispatch. Her boyfriend was older, a Westland dropout who'd had trouble with the authorities.

After Jessica quit cheerleading and started skipping school, her mother turned to Huckleberry House, which helps teens in trouble, for help.

Jessica stayed 12 days at Huckleberry House and was to return home the day after she disappeared. She was last seen at a COTA bus stop across Summit Street from the teen shelter.

Crime Stoppers named the case the crime of the week twice, and it was featured on the TV show Unsolved Mysteries. Rewards were offered three times to anyone with information about the case.

The story also circulated on several Web sites, including one that Jessica 's mother, Becky Smitley of Dayton, responded to after authorities told her about Smith's arrest.

"We're praying all goes well," Smitley wrote. "Keep the prayers for my family."

Chantal Lewis of the South Side was Jessica 's best friend, and remembers her fondly.

"She was a very beautiful person," Lewis said. "She had this sparkle in her eye. You knew she was gonna be something."
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 6:02 pm    Post subject: DNA match may finally let sheriff close case Reply with quote

DNA match may finally let sheriff close case

Randy Ludlow
The Columbus Dispatch
April 11, 2008


Just as it had been most mornings, the memory was still there when Jim Sabin woke up: the Jessica Lyn Keen case. The rape-murder of a 15-year-old cheerleader. The kind of crime that gnaws at a cop.

Sabin awoke March 17 to the realization that 17 years had passed and the case file still was on his desk.

Amazingly, though, this anniversary would breathe new life into a cold case and an old detective.

The Madison County sheriff was a detective sergeant when the call came in about noon on March 17, 1991.

A person making a Sunday visit to a loved one's grave in Foster Chapel Cemetery came across Jessica 's body. It was clad in only a bra and a single dirty sock.

Sabin agonized about what the footprints in the muddy graveyard told of Jessica 's last moments: She ran through the cemetery. She hid behind tombstones. Then, she ran some more. She ran until she ran into a fence. The stumble was all her stalker needed to catch her and beat her to death.

"One could only imagine the terror running through her mind as she tried to escape," Sabin said. "Her age and innocence ... ."

At that spot and on that day, Sabin christened it his "pinnacle case" -- the one that if solved would allow him to one day put his badge in a drawer and walk away satisfied.

But Sabin was denied even a hint of satisfaction as the years rolled by. Periodic DNA testing came up blank, as did countless interviews and tips. He had few leads, no suspect.

Still, the sheriff never abandoned his belief that one day, the phone call would come.

"Seventeen years of daily thoughts: 'What else can we do?' " Sabin recalled.

He was in his office when the phone rang March 17. It was Superintendent Robert Fiatal of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification & Investigation.

It was the call. Semen recovered during the case again had been tested for DNA, this time with the latest technology.

There was a hit. A match with one sample from among the 276,599 in Ohio's criminal DNA database.

"For a split second, it was relief, followed by high excitement," Sabin said. "I know I have a valid, verifiable lead to follow that may bring this case to closure."

Despite hundreds of calls, interviews and tips over the years, he never had heard the name of this suspect.

The DNA was matched to Marvin Lee Smith Jr., a 51-year-old ex-con from the Short North. He served nine years in prison for rape, kidnapping and robbery in Franklin County. He was out on bond on the charges when Jessica died.

Smith was arrested March 28 in Burlington, N.C. -- where he moved after being freed in 2000 -- and charged with molesting Jessica . The Westland High School sophomore was last seen at a bus stop two days before her body was found.

Smith has denied having anything to do with Jessica or her death. The odds that the DNA is not Smith's: 1,000,000,000,000,000,000-to-1.

Sabin realizes there's a huge leap between perhaps proving that Smith had sex with a teenage girl and proving who killed her.

The sheriff is undaunted, saying he will build a murder case with the same tools that served him all those years until an anniversary offered a potential answer.

"Perseverance, technology and patience."
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