Two family weddings have come and gone now in the 11 months since the slaying of Jessica Schobert’s parents.
In an emotional juvenile court hearing Monday morning, the 24-year-old Capital University student finally came face to face with an Akron teen, Jamal Vaughn, who is awaiting trial as an accomplice in the New Franklin murders.
Members of Schobert’s family sat side by side in the front row of the public gallery, quietly weeping, as Summit County prosecutors asked why she couldn’t go to the weddings.
It’s not that she didn’t want to go.
She simply felt it was best to opt out, she said, knowing she couldn’t bear what she would see when the bride appeared.
“I didn’t feel ready to see someone walk down the aisle with their mother,” she said, pausing for a moment to fight back tears, “because I know I never will.”
Vaughn, who just turned 15, did not take the witness stand and made no comments in open court.
Summit County Juvenile Judge Linda Tucci Teodosio already has decided there is sufficient evidence to transfer Vaughn’s case to adult court. But it is not an automatic transfer.
Under Ohio juvenile law, he must have another hearing — an “amenability hearing” — to determine whether he is capable of rehabilitation and treatment in the juvenile justice system should he be convicted.
The hearing is scheduled to continue this afternoon with a forensic pathologist from the Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office testifying about the autopsy findings.
Prominent area attorney Jeffrey Schobert, 56, and his wife, Margaret “Peg” Schobert, 59, were beaten to death April 2 inside the master bedroom of their home in the Portage Lakes area of New Franklin.
The principal defendant, Shawn Eric Ford Jr., 19, is awaiting trial in adult court. He is under indictment on aggravated murder charges and numerous death penalty specifications.
Vaughn, who was barely 14 when he was arrested as an accomplice, cannot face the death penalty under state law.
The first prosecution witness in Monday’s hearing, juvenile court psychologist Dr. Thomas Webb, said he gave Vaughn a series of verbal, reasoning, memory and mental processing tests in September.
Webb testified that Vaughn had an IQ of 70, an indication of mental retardation, with the reading skills of an 8- or 9-year-old, and the math skills of a 2- or 3-year-old.
In 2011, an Akron Public Schools test set Vaughn’s IQ at 69, Webb said.
Schobert, who is pursuing a master’s degree in paralegal studies in Columbus, took the stand next, revealing in chilling detail about how she learned of the murders.
Early on the night of April 1, she said she spoke to her father on the phone. He had been at the hospital most of the day visiting his 18-year-old daughter, Chelsea, who had suffered a concussion after allegedly being attacked by Ford, her former boyfriend, only days before the slaying.
Schobert said her father “seemed like himself” as they talked, that her mother was at the hospital spending the night with Chelsea, and that her father was going out later to walk the family’s dogs.
Summit Assistant Prosecutor Ron Clum then asked if she ever heard from her mother and father again. “I did not,” Schobert said, breaking down and sobbing before she could continue.
The next morning, she said, she got up about 8 o’clock and tried texting her parents. By 3 p.m., there were no responses.
Three hours later, Schobert said she got a call from a detective informing her that “something had happened,” and that she should try to get to Akron as soon as she could.
She said she first feared her sister Chelsea’s condition had worsened.
It wasn’t until about 8 or 9 p.m. on April 2, she said, that she learned what really had happened in a visit from her father’s brother, Steve, at her apartment in Columbus.
“He was the one who told me,” Schobert said, “He told me, and I think I just screamed for several minutes.”
She said she didn’t get to New Franklin and her parents’ home until about 5 or 6 p.m. the following Wednesday. Her mother’s sister drove her there.
“When I walked into the house, I was almost surprised that nothing looked any different. The laundry was still on the table waiting to be ironed,” she said, breaking down again. “It didn’t look any different until we got to their bedroom.”
Police investigators had removed the bed, and the carpet had been ripped up with many of the carpet tacks still exposed. She said she had to go into a closet to get a heavier pair of shoes so she wouldn’t hurt herself.
Schobert said the weeks that followed were such a shock, she didn’t begin the actual grieving process until about a month later.
The New Franklin home is still in the family’s name, awaiting final processing in probate court, as personal things are still being removed.
“We’re not done with that,” she said, “and we haven’t touched their bedroom yet.”
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330 996-3784 or email@example.com.