Jessica Keen Murder: Jessica Keen Killed in Foster Chapel Cemetery
Jessica Lyn Keen was a 15-year-old student from Columbus, Ohio, who was tragically murdered in Foster Church Cemetery in West Jefferson, Ohio. Her case has been featured on several TV shows, including “Unsolved Mysteries,” “On the Case with Paula Zahn,” and “Dead Silent on Investigation Discovery.”
Keen had been an excellent student and cheerleader, but her grades suffered after she fell in love with Sean Thompson, an 18-year-old from her school. Despite her parents’ objections, Keen continued to see Thompson, and on March 4, 1991, her parents reached out to Columbus’s toll-free helpline for help. They were referred to Huckleberry House, a home for troubled teens that provided temporary accommodation and counseling.
Sadly, Keen’s body was discovered on March 17 behind Foster Church Cemetery, two days after she went missing. She had been raped and beaten, and the pendant her boyfriend gave her was missing. Although Thompson was the prime suspect, DNA testing proved he was not responsible. Evidence from the cemetery suggested that Keen tried to hide behind a headstone, but she was eventually killed near the cemetery fence by her captors.
Years later, in 2008, Marvin Lee Smith Jr. was arrested in Burlington, North Carolina, for performing an unlawful sexual act on Keen. Smith was extradited to Ohio and charged with first-degree murder based on DNA evidence. In 2009, he pleaded guilty in Madison County court to raping and murdering Keen. Evidence indicated that Keen fled Smith’s car and ran into the cemetery, where she hit a fence post and fell. Smith then beat her to death with a tombstone that he threw over a nearby fence. As part of a plea deal, Smith avoided a potential death penalty and was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison. Keen’s family has since placed a cross with her name near the cemetery fence where her body was discovered.