Felon pleads not guilty in Aloha mom’s murder


HILLSBORO, Ore. (KOIN) — The 35-year-old convicted felon accused of dismembering an Aloha mother said very little in his first court appearance Thursday afternoon.

Jeremiah Johnston is being charged with murder and abuse of a corpse and is currently held without bond in Washington County. He spoke to his attorney through a protective glass barrier during the extremely brief arraignment during which he entered a not guilty plea.

Johnston’s attorney declined comment to KOIN 6 News about this case. Johnston’s next court appearance is set for February 8.

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 January 25.

A neighbor told KOIN 6 News Johnston appeared to move in with his mom a few months ago to a house on 166th Place that was the site of a massive search last Friday. 

“Forensic trucks were driving into the Cul de Sac,” neighbor Russ Allen said. 

Court documents allege Johnston dismembered her body and according to the Oregonian, she was decapitated and stuffed into 2 suitcases.

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. Injuries to his neck were clear in his booking photo and court appearance. 

Long criminal record

Jeremiah Johnston 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 heroin and meth and being a felon in possession of a firearm. 

  • In 2017, he was charged again with possession of cocaine in Multnomah County.

Jeremiah Johnston in a series of mugshots provided by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. From left, October 26, 2011; Top, January 7 and July 8, 2014; Bottom, June 9, 2015 and August 22, 2017

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