16-year-old Ohio boys charged in deadly log-tossing incident

PHOTO: Popular tourist attraction Old mans Cave in Hocking Hills State Park in Logan, Ohio, Oct. 30, 2005.PlayKiichiro Sato/AP, FILE
WATCH News headlines today: Nov. 21, 2019

A pair of Ohio teenagers have been charged in a deadly log-tossing incident that claimed the life of a photography teacher last month.

The 16-year-old boys were arrested and charged with reckless homicide in the death of Victoria Shafer, a 44-year-old teacher in southern Ohio who died after being hit by a falling log on Labor Day, police said over the weekend.

Shafer, a married mother of four, was on a park photo shoot with five high school seniors on Sept. 2 when the 6-foot log struck and killed her at the scene. The log weighed 74 pounds and investigators said it was nearly impossible for it to have fallen 75 feet without human interference.

"Ohio Department of Natural Resources investigators determined early on that the six foot log was pushed or thrown off the cliff," the Hocking County Prosecutor's Office said in a statement Friday. "Investigators spent countless hours following leads over the course of the past month, most of which were dead ends."

Police arrested the teens last week after receiving a tip from a parent who claimed one of the suspects had confessed to her daughter. The teen allegedly sent the girl, who is a classmate, text messages stating he "did something serious at the park" with another boy, according to the statement.

Investigators followed the tip and the suspects eventually confessed to police, the statement said.

PHOTO: Popular tourist attraction Old mans Cave in Hocking Hills State Park in Logan, Ohio, Oct. 30, 2005. Kiichiro Sato/AP, FILE
Popular tourist attraction Old man's Cave in Hocking Hills State Park in Logan, Ohio, Oct. 30, 2005.

"Further investigation by ODNR and the Hocking County Sheriff’s Office led them to the two juveniles in custody, who admitted that they were involved in forcing the log over the cliff," the statement said. "The two juveniles, both from Logan, were initially charged with Reckless Homicide, although this is subject to change as information comes in."

The teens were being held at a juvenile detention center as of Tuesday afternoon. They made their initial appearance in court on Friday when they pleaded not guilty and requested court-appointed council.

Southern Ohio Crime Stoppers had offered up to $10,000 for information leading to an arrest. The victim's family previously signaled that they would have sympathy for those responsible for Shafer's death.

"They might need counseling. How horrific would that be? It could not have happened naturally. It could not have rolled off," the victim's husband, Fritz Schafer, told Columbus ABC affiliate WSYX last month. "No storm or anything. No wind. It could have been an accident. Even so, somebody knows something."

Cathy Muth, Victoria Schafer's sister, made a similar appeal for information last month and vowed not to seek "vengeance."

"We understand that maybe it was an accident. It was not a malicious act. But just knowing and being able to put that away would be helpful," Muth told WSYX. "We are not out for vengeance. We just want to know what happened, and we want to prevent it from happening again."

ABC News' Rachel Katz contributed to this report.