Note: This story appears in the Wednesday, Sept. 18 newspaper on Page A3.
CHILLICOTHE — Pictures of Victoria Schafer and her family surrounded a table in the PACCAR Medical Education Center on Monday. Those sitting at the table surrounded by her pictures are looking for answers related to her death.
“On behalf of the Schafer family, Southern Ohio Crime Stoppers and the Chillicothe Community, we are here to ask today for help. Help in getting answers, putting together clues and finding resolutions for a grieving family,” remarked Chillicothe-Ross County Chamber of Commerce President Mike Throne.
Throne said in the two weeks since Schafer’s death, the two biggest questions are still — who did this, and why?
On Monday, Sept. 2, Schafer was in Hocking Hills State Park near Old Man’s Cave where she was taking senior photos of six teenagers when she was struck by a six-foot, 120-pound free falling log which came from a 75-foot cliff. According to the death certificate, Schafer was walking down the trail steps at Old Man’s Cave and was struck from the log from above.
The immediate cause of death was listed as blunt force trauma to the head, neck and thorax. According to the death certificate and officials with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, an investigation is ongoing.
Southern Ohio Crime Stoppers is offering a $10,000 reward for any information that leads to the arrest and conviction of any possible parties involved in Schafer’s death. All tips are anonymous and there is an additional reward from a Chillicothe family on top of the $10,000.
“We want to make a plea to those that were in Old Man’s Caves or around Old Man’s Cave on Sept. 2,” Throne said. “Investigators would like to hear from you and know what you heard or what you saw. If you took photos on that day and would be willing to share them, we would like you to reach out. There is no insignificant item or invaluable clue.”
“There were thousands of people there that day,” added Ernie Large, chairman of Southern Ohio Crime Stoppers. “Somebody had to have seen something or taken a photo with something in the background.”
When asked what it would mean to have this resolved, Schafer’s sister Cathy Muth replied that the most important part is to make sure that this does not happen to anyone else.
“I am 100 percent sure that if Victoria knew someone that this had happened to, she would want to make sure that that area was boarded off appropriately or the proper safety measures were taken so that this never happened again,” Muth stated.
“The death of Victoria Schafer on Sept. 2 seemed like a tragic circumstance that could happen to almost anyone,” added Throne. “In the time that has elapsed between her death and now, more and more questions have been raised about the array of events that proceeded what happened.”
Throne continued stating that the initial questions have given birth to new questions and many are looking for answers that only a thorough and complete investigation can provide.
“That is why we are here today; to provide a framework that will bring answers to the questions that people have,” Throne continued.
Muth was there looking for answers into her sister’s death, but she also wanted to share what kind of person Schafer was.
“Victoria wore many hats. She was a sister, a mother, a beloved daughter, an entrepreneur, a passionate artist and also a friend. The world now feels quiet without her vision and her encouragement,” Muth said. “She did so much for so many people, yet made it look so simple and effortless.
“Just five years ago, Victoria launched her photography business, touching the lives of thousands of people. More recently, she decided to take on a human resourcing role where she was respected by all her colleagues of every level,” she added.
Victoria leaves behind her husband of 21 years and four teenage children. Beyond that, it appears she leaves behind a community who benefitted from her presence.
“Victoria’s death has left a void for many in our town. She was an extraordinary person here and was someone who made contributions not only as a photographer and businesswoman but also as a wife, mother and contributor to so many causes and events in our area,” Throne said.
Throne received stories about Schafer from a variety of people. One was from a young girl who remembers Schafer’s kindness and free spirit from sleepovers at the Schafer home. Another was a mother who has preschool photos of her little girl who never sat still for pictures until Schafer took them.
“There was a local businesswoman who got free images of her business and headshots because Victoria said she just wanted to help a young entrepreneur,” Throne stated.
The stories of Schafer’s generosity are just one of the many reasons why Muth wants answers.
“Our family and the Chillicothe community deserve answers as to why this happened and in doing so, we hope to bring awareness so we can prevent this senseless tragedy from ever happening to anyone else’s sister, mother, daughter, spouse or friend,” Muth demanded.
If anyone has information on the incident, contact Southern Ohio Crime Stoppers at 740-773-8477.
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John Stran is a reporter for The Logan Daily News.