Today's picks

    Ex-con is suspected in murder of Oregon woman found dismembered in BMW

    The suspect in the grisly death of an Aloha woman whose dismembered body was found in the trunk of a car is a convicted felon recently released from prison and on probation for another in a long string of drug charges, according to law enforcement sources and court records.
    Jeremiah “Jeremy” Johnston, 35, was taken into custody Thursday night only hours after authorities found the body of 28-year-old Sara Zhgoul stuffed into two suitcases in a black BMW. The car was parked near the home of the suspect’s mother, where he’d been living at the time, court records show.  
    As police closed in on him, Johnston tried to slash his throat and wrists, law enforcement sources said. He remained hospitalizedMonday afternoon and had not been booked.
    Authorities have not publicly identified the suspect. Deputy Jeff Talbot, a Washington County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said his name will be officially released once he is booked into jail, which could take days. He wouldn’t release the man’s condition or say where he was.
    The relationship between Johnston and Zhgoul wasn’t immediately known. But public records show the houses belonging to their families are a half-mile from each other in Aloha.
    Court records show Johnston has multiple drug convictions in the Portland area dating to 2014.
    Johnston was sentenced in July 2015 in Washington County Circuit Court to 23 months in prison for delivery of cocaine, felon in possession of a firearm and possession of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, according to court records.
    He was arrested in August for cocaine possession in Multnomah County and at the time reported to court staff that he had been released from prison three months earlier and was living with his mother at a home in the 8000 block of Southwest 166th Place in Aloha.
    He pleaded guilty in September to the cocaine charge and was sentenced to a year and a half of probation and allowed to enter a treatment program, court records show. 
    Johnston reported to jail staff that he had been diagnosed with anxiety and depression and had been taking antidepressant medication. 
    Last week, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office received word of a possible homicide Thursday evening near Southwest Sarala Street and Hargis Road in Aloha — two blocks from Johnston’s mother’s home.
    According to sources, authorities learned of a possible suspect and tracked him down to a ravine near Southwest Murray Boulevard and Southwest Teal Boulevard. That’s when Johnston tried unsuccessfully to kill himself, the sources said.
    Forensic investigators spent Saturday at the home of Johnston’s mother, according to public records.
    Jordanian news outlets on Monday reported that the Zghoul tribe in Ajloun, a  town in north Jordan, had released a statement on behalf of the Zghoul family.
    In it, the family demanded swift justice for the murder, and asked the Jordanian government to follow up with U.S. investigators. The statement says Zghoul was married, and that neither she nor her husband have had enemies in the U.S.
    The statement described Zghoul as a graduate of the University of Portland who had studied pharmacology and was working as a pharmacist. A Facebook page for Zghoul says she studied pharmacology at Portland State University. A second Facebook page for her says she worked as an actress, model and voice-over artist.
    Beth Sorensen, a spokeswoman for the University of Portland, said the university does not offer a pharmacology degree. A cursory search for Zghoul’s name in a university database turned up nothing, she said. Kenny Ma, a spokesman for Portland State University, said the university could not find any records of Zghoul being enrolled at PSU now or in the past. 
    Friends and acquaintances remembered Zghoul as a selfless young woman who made an impression on nearly everyone who met her.