Sandra K Reabuck
A preliminary hearing for a local man charged in the strangulation death of his one-time girlfriend was postponed Thursday with court-appointed defense attorneys being lined up to represent him.
Jonathan William Beal, 23, of the 400 block of Scratch Hill Road, is charged with killing 19-year-old Justine Marie Jackson.
Her remains were found Nov. 11 in a shallow grave along the Great Allegheny Passage hiking and biking trail.
State police alleged that Jackson killed her after they were seen walking together on Sept. 14 a half-mile from where the remains were found.
Police became aware that Jackson was missing – and possibly murdered – on Oct. 26.
Beal, who is lodged in the Somerset County Jail, was taken to the office of District Judge Douglas Bell for the hearing.
However, Somerset attorney William Kuhn asked for a delay, telling the magistrate he had been appointed only the day before.
He said that he was anticipating that a second attorney would be named to represent the defendant.
Beal had only recently applied for a public defender, it was noted.
District Attorney Lisa Lazzari-Strasiser did not object, saying the prosecution was awaiting the final autopsy report and lab results.
The hearing will be rescheduled, probably in late January, the attorneys and the magistrate agreed.
Beal, who did not speak to news reporters, was heard telling family members, “I’ll be better when I’m home with you guys” as he got into the deputies’ car.
Beal, who had left the state after being questioned by police during the investigation, eventually was named as the murder suspect. He was found by U.S. marshals in a New Orleans suburb and returned to Somerset County.