Police & Courts

Monroe City woman accused of helping cover up shooting death denied bond

Jessica Ellsworth makes her first appearance in Monroe County Circuit Court on charges alleging she helped cover up evidence in the Aug. 5 shooting death of Amanda Johnston.
H-W Photo/Forrest Gossett
Special to The Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 11, 2020 4:40 pm Updated: Aug. 11, 2020 11:34 pm

PARIS, Mo. — A woman charged with trying to help cover up the shooting death of a Monroe City woman last week was denied bond during an arraignment on Tuesday morning.

Jessica Ellsworth, 37, of Monroe City, was charged on Saturday with felony tampering with evidence in the case by Monroe County Prosecuting Attorney Talley Kendrick Smith.

Ellsworth is accused of helping Jerry Asbell, 29, of Monroe City, dispose of evidence in the death of Amanda Johnston, 33, of Monroe City.

Asbell is charged with first-degree murder, accused of killing Johnston early on Aug. 5 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 morning from the Macon County Jail, where she is being held with no bond.

She appeared without an attorney, telling Associate District Judge Michael Wilson that she is applying for a public defender.

During the hearing, Ellsworth said she can be trusted if she is released on bond.

"I am already out on bond from Hannibal, and I am not a flight risk," she said. "I have gone to all my court dates, and I have gone to all the appointments I am a supposed to, and I am trying with all of this and not to lose my job."

According to court records, Ellsworth is free on a $2,500 cash-only bond on 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.

Wilson denied her request. "With respect to today you will remain on a no-bond status," Wilson said.

The judge set an Aug. 18 date for counsel status and a preliminary hearing at Monroe County Courthouse.

Asbell 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 State Highway Patrol, Asbell allegedly killed Johnston shortly after 3 a.m. Wednesday.

Police said Asbell offered money and methamphetamine in exchange for a ride in Johnston's car. Police said they ended up in St. Jude Cemetery in Monroe City where he used a semiautomatic handgun to shoot Johnston.

Police said that Asbell then drove Johnston's car from the cemetery in an attempt to destroy evidence.

Ellsworth is charged with helping Asbell by helping him remove Johnston's body from the cemetery, police say.

"Ellsworth admitted, during a post-Miranda interview, that she assisted Asbell with moving Johnston" so that Johnston's car could be driven by Asbell from the cemetery, police said in the probable cause statement.

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