Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Meyersdale, PA: Man accused of strangling Somerset teen, burying body arrested in Louisiana

The man accused of strangling a Somerset County teen and burying her body in a shallow grave along the Great Allegheny Passage has been arrested in Louisana, Channel 11's Courtney Brennan reported Wednesday.

State police in Somerset say 23-year-old Jonathan Beal was arrested about 6:45 a.m. Wednesday, hiding in a bathroom in the New Orleans suburb of Marrero, by local sheriff's deputies and federal marshals.

"They were able to find him in a back room in a bathroom, hiding," Somerset County District Attorney Lisa Lazzari-Strasiser said.

Lazzari-Strasiser said authorities searched Beal's stepmother's house and seized her computer, which they said Beal used several weeks ago to find a ticket to Louisiana.

Investigators said the remains of Justine Jackson, 19, were found near the passage on Sunday.

"Through dental records, we were able to determine that this was the missing girl we were looking for," Pennsylvania State Trooper Steve Limani said.

In a new search warrant filed late Tuesday, state police said Beal had used his step-mother's computer several weeks ago and searched for travel tickets. Beal continued to log on to this computer remotely and used chat rooms, Facebook and dating websites, officials said.

Police paperwork also stated that Beal was chatting with a woman online and told her that he was "a hitman for hire."

Beal is facing criminal homicide, abuse of a corpse and aggravated assault charges, investigators said. Police said Beal dated Jackson, who disappeared in September.

According to police paperwork, Beal strangled Jackson and then buried her in a shallow grave. Police said Beal also admitted to being with Jackson around Sept. 14 in the area where she was last seen.

After speaking with detectives, investigators said, Beal left the area.

One of Beal's friends told Channel 11 News that Beal told him and other friends he killed Jackson.

"He came to my house and told me that Justine Jackson stole stuff off of him and for that, she had to pay severe consequences," the man said.

The man added that he's received death threats since he told police what he knew. He said he told police Beal visited him right after Jackson went missing.

"He told me that he was going to Florida and I owed him some money. He said he was really desperate to get the money because he needed it to get out of here," the man said.

Another one of Beal's friends, Clifford Felker, told Channel 11's Courtney Brennan that Beal left for Louisiana upset about the entire situation.

"He was trying to hook up with his ex-girlfriend from a long time ago," Felker said. "He was just really upset about the whole thing, like her being pregnant and everything."

According to authorities, police recently raided Beal's home.

"I guess they managed to get in through the back door. They were in and out of the trailer several times. They had carried some clothing out," neighbor Kathy White said.

According to police records, Beal has a violent history with women. Brennan reported that Beal was charged with harassing another woman in August. According to the affidavit, Beal put a boot on the victim's neck and said, "How does it feel to know you could die?"

Authorities said Jackson told some of her friends that she was pregnant right before she disappeared.

Online court records don't list an attorney for Beal, who is being held in Louisiana pending extradition to Pennsylvania.

Police said they expect Beal's extradition hearing will be waived and he will be brought back to Somerset County.

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