Ellsworth waives preliminary hearing

Jessica Ellsworth, appears with her court-appointed attorney, Eric Paul Bond, to waive a preliminary hearing in front of Monroe County Associate District Judge Michael Wilson on a felony charge of tampering with evidence related to the alleged murder of Amanda Johnston of Monroe City on Aug. 6.
By Forrest Gossett
Salt River Journal Editor
Posted: Sep. 10, 2020 10:04 am Updated: Sep. 10, 2020 12:36 pm

PARIS, Mo. | A woman charged with hiding evidence in an alleged murder in Monroe City waived her right to a preliminary hearing on Tuesday in Monroe County Associate District Court.

In a much shorter-than-expected hearing, Associate District Judge Michael Wilson ordered Jessica Ellsworth, 37, of Monroe City, to an arraignment in 10th Circuit Court in front of Judge Rachael Bringer Shepherd at 10 a.m., on Oct 1., in the Monroe County Courthouse in Paris.

Ellsworth is charged with assisting Jerry Asbell, 29, of Monroe City, in the disposal of 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 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 afternoon from the Macon County Jail, where she is being held with no bond.

At the time of the alleged murder of Johnston, Ellsworth was 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. Shepherd sentenced her to seven years in prison. She was on parole for that case.

Ellsworth was scheduled on Wednesday to be transported to the Missouri Department of Corrections for a parole violation related to the Johnston case.

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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