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Somerset suspect waives hearing

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Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

A 23-year-old Somerset County man accused of killing his girlfriend and burying her remains waived his right to an extradition hearing and will be returned to Pennsylvania to face homicide charges, according to state police and the county district attorney's office.

Jonathan William Beal, 23, of 464 Scratch Hill Road, Meyersdale, is expected to be arraigned in Somerset County sometime in the next few days on charges of criminal homicide, aggravated assault and abuse of a corpse, authorities said.

He is accused of strangling Justine Jackson, 19, of Meyersdale.

A hiker discovered her body in an 18-inch-deep grave in a wooded section of the Great Allegheny Passage hiking and biking trail in Somerset County. A team headed by forensic anthropologist Dennis Dirkmaat of Mercyhurst University retrieved the remains this week.

Jackson disappeared from her home near the walking and biking trail on Sept. 14. Police believe Jackson was strangled and then buried in the makeshift grave close to the time of her disappearance.

In an affidavit, Trooper Ted Goins described Beal as having a violent history with women.

Beal vanished late last month after he was questioned by police about the disappearance of Jackson.

Beal claimed he and Jackson had been romantically involved, but he broke off the relationship because of her drug use, according to court papers.

Authorities described the “quiet and shy” Jackson as “transient,” and often living with a family and adopted family members in Pennsylvania and in the Cumberland, Md., area.

Authorities issued an arrest warrant for Beal on Tuesday.

About 6:45 a.m. Wednesday, U.S. marshals and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office in Louisiana found Beal hiding in the bathroom of a former girlfriend's residence in Marrero, a New Orleans suburb. Authorities took him into custody. They did not identify the girlfriend.

Police determined through a computer that Beal booked train tickets to Louisiana. A passenger on a train recognized him as a murder suspect, police said.

Beal is being held at the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622.

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