Man accused of murdering, dismembering Aloha mother pleads not guilty

Jeremiah Johnson with his lawyer in court on Feb. 1 (KATU News photo)

ALOHA, Ore. – The man suspected of killing an Aloha mother and dismembering her pleaded not guilty Thursday.

Jeremiah Johnston is charged with murder and abuse of a corpse in the death of 28-year-old model and actress Sara Zghoul.

Johnston pleaded not guilty to both charges before a judge in a court appearance that lasted less than a minute.

In his mug shot, cuts are visible on his neck. Deputies have not said how or when he got those injuries, but they say they found Johnston injured and down an embankment behind a Beaverton home on Jan. 25.

Earlier that day, the Washington County Major Crimes Team found Zghoul’s dismembered body inside a BMW, after getting information that directed them to that car.

The suspect and victim lived about a half mile from one another, but deputies aren’t saying if the two knew one another or not.

“One of our main priorities is maintaining the integrity of the investigation, for the sole purpose of bringing perpetrators to justice. Not only for their memory, but also for their families,” said Deputy Jeff Talbot from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

Zghoul’s family issued a statement Tuesday saying in part, “We have lost our daughter, mother, sister and friend; beautiful soul who will remain in our hearts forever.”

Johnston has a criminal history, but it’s mostly drug-related charges.

A judge has ordered court documents in the case be sealed.

Chase Haverfield, a friend of Johnston, said he saw Johnston shortly after the killing would have taken place. Zghoul's body was found in a car Haverfield said he recognized.

"I was like, 'Oh my God, that black BMW -- the first article had a picture of his car -- I was like, that's his car," said Haverfield. "Every time I see him, he's in that car. Now he's driving some -- he said it was his mom's car."

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