Washington County

Aloha man charged for murder of Sara Zghoul

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) -- The man suspected of killing a 28-year-old Aloha mother, whose body was found inside the trunk of a car last week, has been charged and booked into Washington County Jail. 

Jeremiah Johnston, 35, is being charged with murder and abuse of a corpse. He's currently being held without bond. 

"This is the first step in the long process of bringing justice for the family, and for the victim and her loved ones," Washington County Sheriff's Office spokesman Jeff Talbot said.

Sara Zghoul's body was found in the trunk of a black BMW near SW Sarala Street and SW Hargis Road in a neighborhood between Aloha and the Cooper Mountain area on Jan. 25.

Deputies took Johnston into custody near SW Murray Blvd. and SW Teal Blvd after a resident in the area heard "help me" screams in a ravine behind his apartment.

"We couldn't see him, but we could hear him," Michael Larsen told KOIN 6 News. "The officers said he went down there and he cut himself."

Johnston was taken to the hospital with self-inflicted injuries. His booking photo shows wounds on his neck. 

The suspect has a history of trouble with the law. In 2011, he was charged with driving under the influence. In 2013, he was accused of forging a prescription for oxycodone by using a doctor's ID and was convicted of identity theft. In 2015 he was charged with delivery of cocaine and possession of heroine and meth and being a felon in possession of a firearm. In 2017, he was charged again with possession of cocaine in Multnomah County.

The Oregonian has reported that Zghoul's body was dismembered, decapitated and stuffed into 2 suitcases.

Authorities declined to confirm those details and have released no additional information.

The paper also reported that Johnston tried to commit suicide before he was arrested and had been hospitalized until he was booked on Wednesday.

The Zghoul family released this statement on Tuesday:

On behalf of the entire Zghoul family we would like to first and foremost extend our deepest gratitude for the overwhelming show of compassion during this difficult time. We would like to thank our family, friends, neighbors, and the entire community as a whole for the generous outpouring of love, support and prayers sent our way. We would also like to thank the detectives who are working diligently around the clock to bring us justice in this matter. At this time we would like everyone to know that we have not released any statements regarding Sara's death and that anyone that has thus far, has done so without corroboration or consent. We ask that the public respect our wishes to grieve in peace. We have lost our daughter, mother, sister, and friend; beautiful soul who will remain in our hearts forever. Please continue to keep us in your prayers. May God bless you all. 

Zghoul was an aspiring model and actress and the mother of a young son.

Johnston has a criminal past. He's been convicted on multiple counts of identity theft, being a felon in possession of a firearm and delivery and possession of meth, heroin and cocaine. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 


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