A 16-year-old boy accused of stabbing a woman to death in a park near her Blendon Township house will plead guilty in adult court and be sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 18 years.
Jordan T. Stewart showed no emotion Wednesday in Franklin County Juvenile Court as he agreed to have his case transferred to adult court as part of a plea agreement.
Assistant County Prosecutor Christopher Clark announced the terms of the agreement during a hearing in the courtroom of Judge Terri Jamison.
Evidence will be presented to a grand jury for indictment, and Stewart’s plea could come as early as this week, Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said.
Stewart is to admit murdering 55-year-old Jane Juergens and tampering with evidence by tossing his knife into a wooded area. He was charged with a delinquency count of murder on Oct. 21, one day after Juergens’ body was found on the main trail of Ridgewood Park.
Stewart lived in a group home with three other boys at 5548 Copenhagen Dr., which is near the park. A staff member had taken Stewart and another resident to the park for a walk on Oct. 20. The staff member later contacted township police to say Stewart went into the woods by himself and returned acting suspiciously; he had been scratched and had a bruise under one eye.
Stewart admitted to police that he encountered a woman jogger while walking on the trail and stabbed her during an argument, O’Brien said. Stewart told police that she was still alive when he left her. He led officers to the place where he had tossed the knife off the trail.
O’Brien said a DNA analysis found Juergens’ blood on the knife and Stewart’s skin cells under her fingernails. An autopsy found 26 stab wounds, he said.
Juergens’ two adult sons and three of her friends attended the hearing but declined to comment.
Stewart spoke little, answering “Yes, ma’am,” when the judge asked if he wanted to transfer the case to adult court. She also asked if he had ever been treated for mental or emotional issues. “ Yes,” he replied. “A ways back.”
He sat between his attorney Crysta Pennington and his grandmother Marilyn Barksdale during the hearing. He hugged his grandmother when the hearing ended.
Stewart’s arrest prompted Franklin County Children Services, which had guardianship of Stewart and had placed him in the residence, to review all of its group-home placements. The review found that the agency needs to better assess youths when they enter the system and needs more placement options for troubled juveniles.
By John Futty - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
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