The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

November 14, 2012

Murder suspect had lived in Johnstown

Jonathan Beal, the 23-year-old Meyersdale man wanted in the murder of a 19-year-old woman, was taken into custody Wednesday by U.S. marshals in Marrero, La., a suburb of New Orleans.

Beal was arrested at 6:45 a.m. by the U.S. Marshals Service Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force and officers from the Jefferson Parish, La., sheriff’s office.

He was lodged in the parish’s corrections center on the Pennsylvania warrant. Somerset County District Attorney Lisa Lazzari-Strasiser said that she was in touch with authorities there about his extradition to Pennsylvania to face the charges here.

If Beal does not waive extradition proceedings, his return to Pennsylvania could take some time, perhaps even a few months, she said.

The suspect was apprehended without incident at a private residence where a female acquaintance lived. The woman reportedly has ties to Johnstown, and it was through those ties that Beal apparently knew her, it was reported.

Beal most recently was living in a mobile home. He had lived in Johnstown, and his driver’s license has a Johnstown address, the district attorney said.

His arrest took place less than 24 hours after state police filed homicide and related charges against him.

Federal and state authorities cooperated in the intense investigation with their counterparts in Cambria and Somerset counties.

They developed information on Beal’s possible location in Louisiana, Lazzari-Strasiser said.

“I hesitate to list them because there were so many, and I don’t want to leave anybody out,” she said.

Beal was found hiding in a bathroom and was taken into custody without incident.

A resident of the 400 block of Scratch Hill Road in Meyersdale, Beal is charged with the strangulation death of Justine Marie Jackson, who had been living in the Meyersdale area with a relative. Her body was found by a hiker on Sunday in a shallow grave in Larimer Township along the Great Allegheny Passage, a biking and hiking trail. She had been reported missing on Oct. 28 after she had not been seen for several weeks.

Jackson was a former resident of Ellerslie, Md., in Allegany County. She attended Mountain Ridge High School in Frostburg before graduating from the Allegany County Center for Career and Technical Education in Cresaptown, Md., in 2010, according to the board of education there.

Beal is charged with criminal homicide, aggravated assault and abuse of a corpse.

The victim was last seen alive while with Beal on Oct. 14. Authorities believe he killed her that day.

Police said that the death was strangulation by ligature, but no details were released on what was used to choke the woman. In the abuse charge, police alleged that Beal buried the victim “in a clandestine grave.”

Trooper Ted Goins, in an affidavit, said that the suspect allegedly made statements to friends and family members that Jackson believed she was pregnant with Beal’s child.

Authorities have declined to say whether the victim was pregnant.

Beal told police that he had ended an intimate relationship with Jackson due to her drug use. He also told people in the Meyersdale area that Jackson had relocated to Baltimore area “to sell drugs,” the trooper alleged.

Goins also alleged, “Beal has a known violent history with women,” although the trooper did not list any details in the probable-cause affidavit.

Records at the office of District Judge Douglas Bell of Meyersdale show that Beal was convicted by the magistrate on Oct. 2 of the summary charge of harassing a woman from Garrett, Somerset County.

Trooper Donald Szarmach alleged in the summary citation that on Aug. 26, Beal had placed his “boot to the neck” of the woman and screamed, “How does it feel to know you could die?”

Beal was fined $300, plus costs, for a total of $455.45, according to the judge’s records.

The Cumberland (Md.) Times-News contributed to this report.

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