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BEAVERTON, Ore. -- A man accused of killing an Aloha woman pleaded not guilty to murder and abuse of a corpse.
The suspect, 35-year-old Jeremiah Johnston, of Aloha, is being held without bail in the Washington County Jail. He appeared in court Thursday afternoon.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reports the body of the victim, 28-year-old Sara Zghoul of Aloha, was found decapitated, dismembered and stuffed into two suitcases in the trunk of a BMW in Washington County on Jan. 25.
Court records show she was killed on Jan. 20.
Johnston has been convicted for multiple drug offenses in the Portland area since 2014, The Oregonian/OregonLive reports.
Zghoul's family released a statement, thanking the community for their support.
"On behalf of the entire Zghoul family we would like to first and foremost extend our deepest gratitude for the overwhelming show of compassion during this difficult time. We would like to thank our family, friends, neighbors, and the entire community as a whole, for the generous outpouring of love, support and prayers sent our way. We would also like thank the detectives who are working diligently around the clock to bring us justice in this matter. At this time we would like everyone to know that we have not released any statements regarding Sara's death and that anyone that has thus far, has done without corroboration or consent. We ask that the public respect our wishes to grieve in peace. We have lost our daughter, mother, sister, and friend; beautiful soul who will remain in our hearts forever. Please continue to keep us in your prayers. May God bless you all."
Police tracked Johnston to a ravine, where he reportedly tried to kill himself but was unsuccessful. Officers took him into custody Thursday night.
Earlier that night, the sheriff's office first received the call about a body in a car near Southwest Sarala and Hargis Road, said Deputy Jeff Talbot. They found Zghoul's body in the trunk.
The relationship between Zghoul and Johnston is unknown at this time. Public records indicate the houses belonging to their families are a half-mile from each other in Aloha, according to The Oregonian/OregonLive.
Johnston was sentenced in July 2015 to 23 months in prison by the Washington County Circuit Court for delivery of cocaine, felon in possession of a firearm and possession of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
He was also arrested for possession of cocaine in Multnomah County in August 2016. He was sentenced to probation and entered treatment after pleading guilty in September.