A Johnson County woman who reportedly told police that she fatally shot her husband had filed orders of protection against her estranged partner less than a month before his death, according to her attorney.
Jema Donahue, 31, of Knob Noster, faces eight felony charges, including second-degree murder, in the death of her husband, Javon Donahue.
On Monday, her mother, Margaret G. Heffernan, as well as a family friend were also charged. They are suspected of helping dispose of Javon Donahue’s body, found by detectives April 21 on a Warrensburg property.
In late March, Heffernan, 60, also filed an order of protection against Javon Donahue, stating that on March 28 Javon Donahue punched her daughter in the head and jaw, slammed her into the floor repeatedly and threatened to kill Heffernan, her husband and grandchildren.
The abuse Javon Donahue exhibited toward his wife was well-documented and occurred throughout the past decade, said John Picerno, Jema Donahue’s defense attorney. Missouri court records show that Javon Donahue was convicted of third-degree domestic assault, served 90 days in jail in 2012 and had been charged with other drug-related offenses.
Jema Donahue’s record includes some traffic violations.
“She had told him the marriage was over,” Picerno said of Jema Donahue. “They had kicked him out of the house. He entered the house unlawfully.”
Picerno said that on the day of Javon Donahue’s death, Javon Donahue entered the Knob Noster home where he had previously lived with Jema Donahue. A struggle occurred between the couple over the family gun in a basement bedroom, and Jema Donahue shot Javon Donahue in self-defense, Picerno said.
“When he received the fatal shot, he was actually on top of her,” Picerno said. “She was on the floor.”
Jema Donahue was arrested Saturday and charged with second-degree murder. Prosecutors filed seven additional charges Monday, including armed criminal action, unlawful use of weapon, concealing a felony, tampering with physical evidence and abandonment of a corpse.
Jema Donahue is being held at the Johnson County jail on a $250,000 cash bond.
She faces an additional charge of felony murder, which was filed in support of the second-degree murder charge, said Johnson County Prosecutor Rob Russell.
The felony murder charge would give jurors an alternative criminal charge to consider, Russell said.
“We were waiting for additional information to come in to clarify circumstances and give us a better understanding of everything, such as the autopsy and other witnesses being interviewed,” Russell said about the additional criminal charges.
He declined to discuss a motive in the slaying.
Heffernan has been charged with one count of abandonment of a corpse and another for tampering with physical evidence. Ricky W. Armstrong, 50, is charged with a felony count of tampering with physical evidence in a felony prosecution. They are both being held on $75,000 cash bonds.
A detective with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, acting on a tip, found a dead body on a rural property in Warrensburg on April 21.
According to court documents: Armstrong told authorities that Jema Donahue contacted him to help dispose of Javon Donahue’s body. The body was wrapped in a white tarp in the living room of her Knob Noster home. Armstrong allegedly helped carry the body into the bed of a pickup truck.
The next day, he rented an excavator from B-Quip Equipment Rental and reportedly helped Heffernan transport the body to the property, where they covered the body with cardboard and dirt. Heffernan allegedly paid him $400 for his work.
Heffernan wrote in her request for protection that Javon Donahue had threatened her life on March 28 while the family was living together in Knob Noster.
She said that he said to her daughter, “I will take all your family out by killing them, get ready.”
Her daughter had a lump and cut on her forehead when she came downstairs and told her mother that Javon Donahue had hurt her by punching her and slamming her body into the floor.
Heffernan said she asked Javon Donahue to leave, and he yelled profanities at her. When Heffernan shoved him, she wrote, he responded by saying, “I will kill you, your husband and your grandchildren.”
Less than a month later, when police came to her door to ask about Javon Donahue’s body, she allegedly told detectives that she helped wrap the body and move it to the Warrensburg location.