Police have yet to disclose a possible motive for the grisly killing

By Chris Harris
February 01, 2018 10:12 AM

Oregon authorities filed charges Wednesday against a man they allege murdered Sara Zghoul, the 28-year-old mother whose decapitated and dismembered body was found last Thursday stuffed inside two separate suitcases in the trunk of a BMW.

Jeremiah Johnston, 35, is being held without bail in the Washington County Jail on two criminal counts: murder and abuse of a corpse.

The arrest was confirmed in a press release issued late Wednesday. PEOPLE also accessed online court records that detail the charges against Johnston.

Property records obtained by PEOPLE show a listing for Johnston in a house owned by his parents close to Zghoul’s address in Aloha, Oregon.

Jeremiah Johnston
Washington County Sheriff's Office

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The remains of the print model and aspiring actress were recovered Jan. 25, from a car that was parked in a neighborhood in Aloha, Oregon.

Sara Zghoul
Sara Zghoul/Instagram

Acting on a tip from an unnamed source, officers allegedly found a hysterical Johnston in the woods nearby, moments after he had allegedly attempted suicide.

According to investigators, Johnston cut his own throat and tried to slash his wrists as police were closing in on him.

Police have yet to discuss a possible motive for the grisly killing.

Investigators have allegedly established a link between Johnston and the BMW that was holding Zghoul’s remains, but have not said who owns the vehicle.

This week, family and friends remembered the young mother for her positive spirit and good nature.

Johnston has not entered a plea to the two charges, and has no attorney of record.

He does, however, have a record of convictions for identity theft and both gun and drug possession, online court records indicate.

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According to court records, Johnston was sentenced in 2015 to 23 months in prison for delivery of cocaine, felon in possession of a firearm and possession of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

This past August, he was arrested for cocaine possession — three months after being released from prison.

In September, he pleaded guilty to the charge and was placed on probation for 18 months. He was also allowed to enter a treatment program, court records confirm.

Anyone who may have information on this case is asked to contact Washington County Sheriff’s Office detectives at (503) 846-2700.

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