A fifteen-year-old cheerleader is murdered in a desolate cemetery.
On March 16, 1991, a Madison County, Ohio, teenager was abducted and raped. Her clothes had been torn off. But somehow she escaped into a cemetery, only to end up hiding behind tombstones. She attempted to flee the graveyard, but in the pitch-black she smashed into a fence post. Once her assailants caught up with her, they struck her in the face with a blunt object and left her to die. Her name was Jessica Lyn Keen and she was only 15-years-old. Later, investigators were able to pinpoint Jessica’s final moments based on clues in and around the crime scene. There was mud on the fence, a sock that belonged to her, and an impression of her knee in the ground. But the police didn’t have a clue why anyone wanted to kill her.
The gruesome murder of Jessica Lyn Keen has baffled local and state detectives for years. Jessica had been a popular cheerleader, an honor student and a talented performer. According to her mother, Rebecca, Jessica had many goals and dreams:
In high school, Jessica’s life began to have its ups and downs. It had to do with being a teenager and with meeting her first love, 18-year-old Shawn Thompson. Jessica’s relationship with Shawn was new and exciting. But according to her mother, the romance began to distract Jessica from her schoolwork:
Arguments between Jessica and her mother escalated. They both knew they needed a cooling-off period. Mother and daughter mutually decided that Jessica should spend two weeks at a local live-in counseling center for teenagers. On March 15th, the day before she was to move back home, and just hours before she died, Jessica spoke to Shawn. According to Special Agent Gregg Costas of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Jessica became upset:
After the call, Jessica told a friend that she was going to the mall. She was last seen at a bus stop near the counseling center at 6:00 PM. It was there that Special Agent Costas suspected that Jessica was abducted:
Jessica’s body was found 42 hours later, 20 miles from the bust stop. Investigators believed that after Jessica was abducted, she was held captive for at least six hours. Based on a semen sample, Special Agent Costas believed she was raped between two and four hours before her escape from the car:
According to Special Agent Costas, the sock that was found matched the one that remained on Jessica’s foot:
Sheriffs in Madison County turned their attention to Jessica’s boyfriend, but Shawn Thompson wasn’t in Columbus. He had left for Florida with some friends. According to Sheriff Stephen Saltsman, Shawn and his friends were eventually returned to Ohio:
DNA evidence from the semen sample did not match Shawn or the others. The group was cleared of any wrongdoing. But for investigators, an entire week had been lost. The trail of the actual killer or killers had grown cold. Still Jessica’s death never stopped haunting her mother:
Seventeen years to the day that Jessica Keen was murdered, authorities match DNA from her case to a convicted felon name Marvin Lee Smith, Jr. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.