Death Of A Cheerleader: The Shocking Murder Of Jessica Lyn Keen


(Jessica Lyn Keen. Picture credit:

This was a shocking case that remained unsolved for 17 years. It is a case that haunted the people of West Jefferson, Ohio and to this day nobody has ever forgotten what happened to the beautiful and talented Jessica Lyn Keen. 

Jessica was a lot like other 15 year old girls her age but she was determined to spread her wings and do things her own way as teenagers often do. She was a talented and popular girl who did well in school and was a cheerleader. She could sing and had dreams of becoming an actress or zoologist as she was a major animal lover. Things seemed to be going well and she had a great relationship with her parents up until Jessica started going out with an older boy who was a high school drop out.

It didn't take long for Jessica to start skipping school and her grades were going down because she was spending more and more time with her boyfriend who her parents didn't approve of. Whenever her mother tried to set down rules, Jessica would just ignore them and sneak out of the house. 

Tensions were so high in the family home that Jessica's mother decided that it would be best for Jessica to stay at a home for troubled teens for a couple of weeks as a sort of 'sharp shock' to bring her to her senses. Jessica felt that she was in love with her boyfriend and refused point blank to stop seeing him. At this point, Jessica always wore a necklace around her neck with a pendant which said 'Taken' on it, it's unknown if her boyfriend gave her this necklace but it's highly likely.

The two weeks away from her parents should have been a bit of fresh air for Jessica and her parents in that March of 1991 but instead it turned out to be the most horrendous nightmare that nobody could have imagined. 

Whilst at the home, Jessica was said to have gotten on well with the staff but one afternoon some of the other girls overheard her having a tense conversation with her boyfriend on the phone. She then announced that she was going to a shopping mall. 

Nobody sensed anything out of the ordinary until the staff at the home noticed that Jessica had not returned that night and promptly called her mother who then contacted the police.

What nobody knew at the time was that on that afternoon whilst standing at a bus stop Jessica was either abducted or accepted a car ride and for the next six hours she had been held captive, beaten and raped. The poor girl managed somehow to escape from the vehicle and ran down a road in the middle of the night. She was wearing only her bra, one sock, her watch and ring plus duct tape on her mouth, head and around her wrists. The 'Taken' necklace was gone. 

Nobody could imagine the sheer panic and fear that this poor girl must have felt as she was running as fast as she could, trying to get away, trying to find a safe place to hide in the dead of night. She ended up in a cemetery (Foster Chapel Cemetery) and frantically hid behind gravestones as her attacker chased after her and searched for her.

Trying to even imagine what she must have been going through in those moments knowing that this person, this evil monster would just not go away. It's unknown how long she must have been hiding behind the gravestones but a knee print and a sock was found later on by investigators. 

At some point Jessica spotted a light in the distance from an old farmhouse and decided to take a risk and run for it but her attacker was soon close behind and with it being so dark in the cemetery she didn't see the fence she was running towards. She accidentally hit a fence post and fell backwards. Her mother would later say in interviews that she hoped that Jessica had been knocked out by the collision with the post. 

It's so heartbreaking to think of this beautiful young girl with her whole life ahead of her trying everything to save her own life, feeling trapped in that cemetery in the middle of the night and her only hope was that light from the old farmhouse. One wonders if that fence had not been there would Jessica have made it through? When I think of her trying to get away from what was happening I think of her as a strong, brave young girl. To get as far as she did was brave but the odds were stacked against her because of that post and it makes me angry and so heartbroken because she should not have had to go through this. 

When she fell back her attacker caught up with her and picked up a gravestone and beat her so hard with it that the stone actually broke in two. Once he was sure that Jessica was dead, he then threw the bloodied gravestone over the fence and left the cemetery. Jessica had been reported missing but her body was not found for two days. 

Straight away the police suspected her boyfriend due to the argument on the phone and the missing necklace but DNA found on Jessica's body did not match and he had an alibi. He was travelling to Florida with friends at the time.

With no leads and no witnesses, the case ran cold and it was heartbreaking for Jessica's family thinking they would never see their daughter's killer finally brought to justice but 17 years later there was a breakthrough. A man named Marvin Lee Smith was arrested as the DNA found on Jessica's body matched his and he made a confession. He told investigators that he was the only one responsible for Jessica's death.

        (Marvin Lee Smith. Photo credit:

In the Autopsy that took place on Jessica's body, she was found to have died from blunt force trauma. Jessica had no drugs or alcohol in her system. 

Marvin Lee Smith pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison. 

Whenever I cover a case that has remained unsolved or has taken years for the perpetrators to be brought to justice, I can't help but try to imagine what that must feel like for the families and friends of the victims, to have all of those years of waiting and searching for the truth. To know that the killer or killers are still out there. I also think about the people who never get justice, who's murders were never solved. It truly is heartbreaking. 

I can't even bring myself to look at Marvin Lee Smith. I had to include a picture of him for this post but I never like posting pictures of the monsters who commit these horrible crimes. My focus is always on the victims, to help share their story. 

Jessica's mother spoke in an interview about how she felt that she had done everything she possibly could to protect her daughter from the dangers of the world but that horrendous nightmare still happened. 

There's nobody to blame for this horrific crime except for Marvin Lee Smith.

                 (A memorial to Jessica now stands at the post near to where her body was found. Picture credit:

I've read some comments online about her parents possibly being against the fact that her boyfriend was African American but her mother said that wasn't the case. She said that she was concerned about the fact that her boyfriend had dropped out of school and thought he was a bad influence on Jessica. 

I've also seen comments regarding Jessica being placed in a home for troubled teens. At the end of the day none of us know the real story about what went on. We don't know if Jessica was on the verge of taking drugs or something serious happened which prompted her parents to send her to the home. In my opinion they had their reasons but if there's one thing I know about teenagers, they always find a way to do something. Maybe there was just too much clashing of communication at the family home but at the end of the day, it's not up to me to judge when I don't know any of the people concerned personally.  All I know is, that Jessica did not deserve what happened to her. 

It's a case that I will always remember as I do with all of the cases I have covered. It's important to remember Jessica for the beautiful and talented young woman that she was. 

RIP Jessica.

                                                                       (Jessica's grave. Picture credit:

Further reading & sources:

Thank you for taking the time to read my latest case, see you in the next one x 

If you enjoy my weekly true crime posts, please consider sending me a tip here or subscribing to my Kofi page for access to all of my personal posts, erotic stories etc. All the details for each tier are on my Kofi page.

You can find me on the following:

- Instagram: @KittysOnTheCase

- My Personal Blog, Updates, Pics etc: CaledonianKitty (Ko-fi)

- My Amazon Wishlist

- Follow my cats on Twitter: @xMercuryMeow @GobbolinoX

- Check out my shop for gorgeous bargains: CaledonianKittyx

- My Youtube Channel: Caledonian Kitty

- My Backup Instagram: @VampireKittyx

- For all other enquiries, to discuss a case etc, drop me a line anytime at

Special shoutout to my top tier monthly subscribers on my Ko-Fi page:

- Shilo, please check out his incredible guitar skills on his Twitter and Youtube channel.

- Jean Nicolas, follow him on Twitter and Instagram

- Michael, follow him on Instagram

- Dean, follow him on Twitter

These guys are amazing and I thank them all so much for their support.

Check out some of the true crime cases I have covered previously:

1 comment:

  1. This was intense and heart breaking all at once! Yet you told it with such power and such brilliance that I was riveted from the beginning. You always find a way to give a voice to the victims in such a caring and beautiful manner. Incredible work! ❤