An Oregon man who was released from prison last year is accused in the horrific murder of model and actress Sara Zghoul, whose decapitated and dismembered body was discovered stuffed into two suitcases inside an abandoned BMW, The Oregonian reports.
Jeremiah “Jeremy” Johnston, 35, was arrested Thursday night after being discovered in a ravine after a failed suicide attempt following the death of Zghoul, a young mother who was forging a career in the modeling world. Johnston remained hospitalized Monday and his name has not been publicly released by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. Officials said he would be identified after he is booked into jail and charged.
A motive for the killing has not been released. It is also not known if or how Johnston and Zghoul knew each other, but The Oregonian reports that homes belonging to their families are about a half mile apart in Aloha, a community in the Beaverton area where Zghoul was found dead.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Police Found Zghoul’s Mutilated Body Stuffed Into Suitcases
The details of what happened to Sara Zghoul are terrifying. According to Oregon Live, authorities discovered the “decapitated and dismembered body of a woman stuffed inside two suitcases in the trunk of a luxury car.” The body was later identified as Zghoul, who was from Aloha, Oregon.
Police discovered Zghoul’s remains after getting a tip “regarding a possible homicide where the victim’s body had been left inside a vehicle,” reported KATU-TV. Authorities have not disclosed any more details about the tipster. The vehicle was further described in news reports as a BMW.
2. Johnston Was Discovered Screaming in a Ravine by the Resident of a Nearby Home
According to Fox 12, the suspect, identified by The Oregonian as Jeremy Johnston, was taken into custody not long after Zghoul’s body was discovered in the BMW. He was detained in Beaverton, Oregon.
A local man described to Fox 12 seeing the suspect leaning against a tree in the woods and wailing. “I could see a murderer right below our deck,” the witness told the television station. “The tone of his voice when he was yelling, it was very desperate.” The witness told the television station that he called 911, adding, “It was really cold and rainy, and he’s just sitting out there leaning against a tree.”
3. Johnston Has Multiple Drug Convictions in Oregon Dating Back to 2014 & Was Released From Prison in May
Jeremiah Ward Johnston has a lengthy criminal record in Oregon, according to court records. He has multiple drug convictions dating back to 2014. In July 2015, Johnston was sentenced in Washington Circuit Court to 23 months in prison for delivery of cocaine, felon in possession of a firearm and possession of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, court records show.
According to The Oregonian, Johnston was released from prison in May 2017. He was then arrested in August 2017 in Multnomah County, Oregon, and charged with cocaine possession. He told police he had been released from prison three months earlier.
Johnston pleaded guilty in September in that case and was sentenced to a year and a half of probation and entered a drug treatment program, the newspaper reports. He told jail staff he had been diagnosed with anxiety and depression and was taking antidepressant medication, according to The Oregonian.
4. Investigators Searched Johnston’s Mother’s Home in Aloha
Police were searching Johnston’s mother’s house in Aloha, an unincorporated community in the Beaverton, Oregon, area, in the days after the Zghoul’s death, according to KATU-TV.
The home is located in the 8000 block of Southwest 166th Place. According to a resume Johnston posted to Indeed.com, he has worked previously as an account executive for Lynmar Enterprises, Inc., a company owned by members of his family and operated out of the Southwest 166th Place home.
Johnston attended Aloha High School and has also worked as a customer service representative at Wells Fargo from 2005 to 2007 and a mortgage loan officer at Bank of America from 2007 to 2012.
5. Sara Zghoul Was Remembered as a Vibrant Young Mother With a Bright Future
Zghoul, 28, was remembered by friends and loved ones for her love of her young child and her beauty, which led to modeling assignments. Wrote one friend on Facebook, “I wish I could’ve been there to protect you because this would’ve never happened! Praying for you and your family. Go with God and rest in His loving arms..” Another wrote: “#rip your a beautiful angel up above.”
Jessica Winters, a friend, told Fox 12 she was in shock, saying, “I’m just like comprehending everything. She was so outgoing, she walks in a room and you just have to be happy.”
“Rip you were a beautiful young mother now your a beautiful angel 😇 prayers for your family 😪😪🙏🏼 so very sad,” wrote another friend. “My heart hurts so much.. I’m still in disbelief that your gone.. you were my sister and I had some of the best times of my life with you.. at a loss for words all I can say is i deeply love you Sara Zghoul Rest In Peace you beautiful soul❤️,” wrote another.
“I’m sorry u left the way u did you touched lives and brought smiles to anyone around u your child will love u forever and ever and always know the beauty u posesed until we meet again friend,” wrote another man.
On one of her Facebook pages, Zghoul wrote that she studied Pharmacology at Portland State University. On a recent modeling photo of herself, she wrote, “Runway show I walked in for a few different brands but here, I am sporting the clothing line ‘Issuez’. I’m sorry to all the wonderful photographers – I do not know who took this one. ❤️” Her Instagram page is filled with modeling shots.
She wrote under one picture of her young son, “what an amazing boy God blessed me with. I love you to the moon and back an infinite number of times! 😘” She had also posted a recent photo of a missing young woman on her social media pages.
She also wrote with one photo: “Live dangerously occasionally.” Some of the young woman’s social media posts are heartbreaking in retrospect. “I don’t know how my story will end but nowhere in the text will it read ‘I gave up.’ Life gets better if you want it to. And I love mine,” she wrote in one.
She touched lives during her short life. Gregory McKelvey, a friend since childhood, told Fox News, “She was known for being a great person and she touched so many people. It felt like she knew everyone and losing her is a big loss for the community.”