Defendant denied bond in Johnston murder case

Jessica Ellsworth makes her first appearance in Monroe County Circuit Court on felony charges of helping accused murderer Jerry Asbell cover up evidence in the alleged murder of Amanda Johnston last week in Monroe City.
Forrest Gossett
Posted: Aug. 11, 2020 11:00 am Updated: Aug. 12, 2020 8:40 am

PARIS, Mo. | A woman charged with trying to help cover up the alleged murder of a Monroe City woman last week was denied bond during an arraignment on Tuesday morning.

Jessica Ellsworth, 37, of Monroe City, was charged on Saturday with felony tampering with evidence in the alleged murder case by Monroe County Prosecuting Attorney Talley Kendrick Smith. She appeared on Tuesday morning before Monroe County Associate District Judge Michael Wilson.

She is charged with helping Jerry Asbell, 29, of Monroe City, dispose of the evidence in the alleged murder of Amanda Johnston, 33, of Monroe City. Asbell is charged with first-degree murder in the alleged shooting of Johnston early on Wednesday (Aug. 6) at a cemetery in Monroe City.

Johnston's body was discovered after a three-day search in a remote area in a ravine close to a rock quarry near Frankford in Pike County.

Ellsworth was brought to court on Tuesday morning from the Macon County Jail, where she is being held with no bond.

She appeared without an attorney, Wilson that she is applying for a public defender.

During the hearing, Ellsworth said she can be trusted if she is released on bond.

“I am already out on bond from Hannibal and I am not a flight risk,” she said. “I have gone to all my court dates and I have gone to all the appointments I am a supposed to and I am trying with all of this and not to lose my job.”

According to court records, Ellsworth is free on a $2,500 cash-only bond for burglary charges, filed on March 18, in Marion County. Court records also show that she pleaded guilty in Marion County before Judge Rachael Bringer Shepherd in June 2018 for possession of a controlled substance as part of a plea deal.

Wilson denied her request. “With respect to today you will remain on a no-bond status,” Wilson said.

The judge set an Aug. 18 date for counsel status and a preliminary hearing at Monroe County Courthouse.

Asbell, 29, was charged the first-degree murder of Johnston and armed criminal action. He is being held in the Monroe County Jail without bond.

He could face up to life imprisonment with no parole, or the death penalty, if convicted on the first-degree murder charge.

According to a Probable Cause statement from the Missouri Highway Patrol filed with the charges on Saturday, Asbell allegedly killed Johnston shortly after 3 a.m. on Wednesday (Aug. 5).

Police said Asbell offered money and methamphetamine in exchange for a ride in Johnston's car. They ended up in St. Jude Cemetery in Monroe City, police said. They said that he allegedly used a semi-automatic handgun to shoot Johnston.

Police said that Asbell then drove Johnson's car from the cemetery in an attempt to conceal the alleged crime and destroy evidence.

Ellsworth is charged with helping Asbell in his attempt to conceal and destroy evidence of the alleged murder by helping him remove Johnston's body from the cemetery.

“Ellsworth admitted, during a post Miranda interview, that she assisted Asbell with moving Johnston” so that her car could be driven by Asbell from the cemetery, said police in the Probable Cause Statement.



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