Monroe City man pleads guilty in 2020 murder case, receives 30-year prison sentence

Asbell booking photo copy

Jerry Asbell Jr. | Photo courtesy of Nicole Volkert

WARRENTON, Mo. — Jerry Asbell, Jr., of Monroe City received a 30-year prison sentence on Monday in Warren County Circuit Court after entering a plea of guilty to second-degree murder in the Aug. 5, 2020 shooting death of Amanda Johnston, also of Monroe City.

Judge Jason Lamb said Asbell, 31, must serve 85 percent of his sentence before he is eligible for parole. The case had been moved to Warren County on a change of venue.

Nicole Volkert, prosecuting attorney for Monroe County, described to the court how Asbell killed Johnston. The Missouri State Highway Patrol also provided information in a probable cause statement. 

Asbell arrived on foot with his girlfriend, Jessica Ellsworth, at the home of Johnston, 32, and asked for a ride to St. Jude Cemetery. He gave Johnston money and methamphetamine as a payment to ride in her black 2004 Ford Taurus. 

Johnston drove Asbell and Ellsworth to the cemetery. After Johnston parked her car, Asbell pointed a loaded semi-automatic handgun at her, pulling the trigger twice and shooting her once in the head. Asbell then moved Amanda’s body from the driver’s seat into the rear of the vehicle, then dumped her body in a remote area outside of Frankford, Mo. Asbell and Ellsworth returned to Johnston’s trailer and took various items of value. They cleaned the vehicle before abandoning it.

Johnston’s mother reported her missing on Aug. 5, 2020, and the Northeast Missouri Major Case Squad was activated. Johnston’s body was found three days later, and Asbell was arrested that same day.

The Missouri Attorney General’s Office assisted in the prosecution. The Missouri State Highway Patrol, Division of Drug and Crime Control, Troop B, led the investigation.

The Monroe City Police Department, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, Audrain County Sheriff’s Office, Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, Macon Police Department, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Moberly Police Department, NEMO Drug Task Force, Pike County Sheriff’s Office, Shelbina Police Department and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office also assisted in the investigation. 

Ellsworth, 39, still faces charges of tampering with evidence for her role in the crime. 

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