State authorities in Missouri say they have captured the man and woman responsible for the death of a 32-year-old who vanished from her home late last week.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol said that Jerry Asbell, Jr., 29, and Jessica Ellsworth, 37, both of Monroe City, have been charged in the killing of Amanda Johnston, who was reported missing last Thursday and found dead Saturday.
Preliminary investigation has led authorities to believe Asbell and Ellsworth broke into Johnston’s home before taking her to a Monroe City cemetery and killing her, according to local outlet KRCG. Asbell allegedly shot Johnston to death at the cemetery early Wednesday and then dumped her body in northeast Pike County, where authorities discovered it over the weekend.
Asbell has been charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action while Ellsworth is charged with tampering with physical evidence in a felony prosecution.
A motive in the killing has not been disclosed.
The quick arrest of the suspects came from an ongoing investigation into a burglary by the Monroe City Police Department, according to KRCG.
The same day that Johnston disappeared (and a few hours after her death), Monroe City police were investigating a burglary at a storage complex in Monroe City. Authorities tailed a vehicle they believed to be involved in the burglary and arrested the car’s occupants following a brief struggle: Asbell and Linkon Rickard.
A few hours before the pair was taken into custody, a friend of Johnston’s reported signs of a break-in at her home and no trace of her friend. Authorities later said that none of Johnston’s had seen her for a few days.
Ellsworth is accused of helping cover up Johnston’s murder, according to documents obtained by the Hannibal Courier-Post, a local newspaper.
Asbell is being held without bond, and Ellsworth was denied bond at a hearing Tuesday.
Just a few days prior to his arrest for murder, Asbell was charged multiple felonies — including assault — after officers responded to a call where he was “not acting right,” according to an earlier KRCG report. When police arrived at the home, an unidentified woman with visible injuries told police Asbell had demanded money from her, claiming she had previously stolen from him, before beating her and chasing her with a knife.
It is unclear if Asbell or Ellsworth have attorneys who can speak on their behalf at this time. Rickard was arrested on separate charges and is not accused in Johnston’s death.
Monroe City residents mourned expressed sorrow and confusion at her death.
“She’s always been very nice very cordial with us and it’s just sad,” local business owner Terry Gibbs told WGEM.
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