PARIS, Mo. | A man was charged on Saturday afternoon with murdering a missing Monroe city woman.
Jerry Asbell, 29, of Monroe City, was charged with the alleged first-degree murder of Amanda Johnston, 32, by Monroe County Prosecuting Attorney Talley Kendrick Smith. Additionally, he was charged with armed criminal action. He is being held in the Monroe County Jail without bond.
According to the charging document, Asbell could face up to life imprisonment with no parole, or the death penalty if convicted on the first-degree murder charge.
Jessica Ellsworth, 37, of Monroe City was charged with felony tampering with evidence in the alleged murder case. She is in the Macon County Jail, according to police.
Missouri Highway Patrol Sgt. Eric Brown said Johnston's body was found off a road in rural Pike County early Saturday morning after an extensive four-day search.
“Her body has been discovered and her next-of-kin have been notified,” Brown said late Saturday morning.
First responders said Johnston was discovered in a ravine near a rock quarry on Route B, just east of the U.S. 61.
Johnston went missing on Wednesday from her Monroe City home. Brown said that at about 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Monroe City Police went to a home in the city that callers said had been burglarized.
Brown said that the Monroe City Police, conducted an initial investigation, and mobilized the Northeast Missouri Major Case Squad, as evidence indicated that Johnston's was likely the victim of a crime.
According to a Probable Cause statement 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 used a semi-automatic handgun to allegedly murder Johnston.
“A witness to the crime told law enforcement that Asbell attempted to discharge the handgun toward Johnston. However, the safety was on, causing Asbell to have to release the safety before shooting Johnston,” police allege in their statement.
Police said that Asbell then drove Johnston's car from the cemetery in an attempt to conceal the alleged crime and destroy evidence.
“Johnston's body was discovered in a remote location,” police said. “Asbell also attempted to conceal/destroy evidence of his criminal act by cleaning the inside of Johnston's vehicle.”
Police allege that Ellsworth helped 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.
Asbell was already in the Monroe County Jail, after being charged with first-degree kidnapping, second-degree assault and armed criminal action in a separate case.
According to a probable cause statement Monroe City Police Department, entered the house where the 911 call originated and found a woman with facial abrasions and a bleeding foot.
Police said that Asbell came out of a room with arms raised over his head.
However, police allege that once he was escorted out of the home, Asbell began to fight Monroe County sheriff's deputies. Police said that he was searched and a needle with a “clear substance” was pulled from his right front pocket, and that he had two Social Security cards and a food stamp card that did not belong to him.
At that point, police labeled him a flight risk in the probable cause statement, saying, “Asbell is a suspect in a missing person case.” Monroe County Associate Judge Michael Wilson ordered Asbell held without bond.
Officers from eight agencies, including the Monroe City Police Department, Monroe County Sheriff's Department and the Missouri Highway Patrol, joined the investigation to search for Johnston.