Murder suspect now accused of trying to get witness killed

jeremiah johnston court 02082018

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The man accused of killing and dismembering an Aloha mother nearly a year ago is now accused of trying to hire someone to kill a witness to the murder.

Undated photos of Sara Zghoul, whose body was found in the trunk of a car in Aloha on Jan. 25, 2018. (Courtesy of Zghoul's family)

Jeremiah Johnston had been facing charges of aggravated murder, kidnapping and abuse of a corpse in the January 25, 2018 murder of Sara Zghoul. New documents obtained by KOIN 6 News show he now also faces charges of attempted aggravated murder, criminal conspiracy and solicitation.

Court documents from early in 2018 allege Johnston dismembered Zghoul and left her body in the trunk of a black BMW in the Aloha neighborhood where she and Johnston both lived. 

He was found nearby with self-inflicted injuries to his neck. 

In the secret indictment in Washington County in early December, prosecutors allege Johnston, sometime between May 28 and July 26, 2018, solicited Daniel Kerbs to kill a witness to the Zghoul murder.

Jeremiah Johnston made his first court appearance Thursday afternoon, Feb. 1, 2018. (KOIN)

The secret indictment said Johnston solicited Kerbs to “intentionally” cause the death of the witness, “the intended death being related to the performance of official duties of” the witness in the case.

Kerbs is a former Woodburn police officer who pleaded guilty to sex abuse charges involving a child under age 16.

Kerbs’ attorney told KOIN 6 News by phone that those charges are for incidents that happened before Kerbs worked fort he police department. He added that Kerbs had a distinguished career in the military and law enforcement.

A July 27, 2017 booking photo of Daniel Kerbs from the Washington County Sheriff's Office.

He said in relation to Johnston, Kerbs has and will continue to cooperate with law enforcement. 

KOIN 6 News is not naming the witness at this time but did speak with the witness. They said they don’t know Kerbs at all and do not want to speak publicly and possibily jeopardize the case.

The Washington County District Attorney’s Office declined to comment on this as it is an ongoing investigation. It is not clear at this time if Kerbs is being charged in this case.

KOIN 6 News reporter Emily Burris contributed to this report.

Watch: KOIN 6 News reporter Emily Burris dives deeper into the investigation

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