Jessica Shaffer was born on August 6, 2011, in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Hal and Anita Shaffer. Her younger brother Martin was born in 2015.
Hal Shaffer is a civil engineer for the city of Cincinnati, employed since 2001, taking the position right after his college graduation. He is currently an ND chief engineer of the Cincinnati Public Works Department.
Jessica's mother, Anita, is a counselor for the Cincinnati Public School System, primarily focusing on troubled sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students. Since her graduation from Kent State University in 2001, Anita has gone back to school in her spare time and received both a master's and a doctorate degree in child psychology.
The link between Jessica Shaffer and Monica Drum began at Kent State, where Anita (née Morrison) and Monica Drum were close friends. Anita was one of the primary influences on Monica's choice to enter into a career in journalism, encouraging Monica to major in journalism and intern during the summers at local papers.
Drum later said Anita's belief in her talent as a writer, organizer, and amateur sleuth pushed her to become a "real" journalist. She told close friends that Anita's faith in her gave her the confidence to take on real people and real issues. Anita herself has never claimed any credit for influencing Monica. She said she simply advised Monica to do what she would enjoy in life, something that might make a positive change in society.
Anita and Monica stayed close through the years, and in 2012, Hal and Anita made Monica the godmother of their first child, Jessica. Monica was so touched by this gesture that she left $10,000 to the child in her will to help pay for her college education.
Jessica Shaffer is a well adjusted, above-average intelligence child with the typical interests and activities for a girl in her age and social group. She enjoys watercolor painting, plays forward on her school soccer team, and excels in history and science. She also has an extensive stamp collection and talks of becoming a counselor like her mother.
Jessica thought of Monica as both a godmother and a very close friend. On Jessica's birthday each August 6, a large box would always arrive in Cincinnati, filled with stamps, new clothing, and a large stash of books.
Anita Shaffer reports that her daughter is deeply saddened by Monica's death.