Hupperterz found guilty of killing Temple student

Kristen Johanson
January 17, 2019 - 3:58 pm
From left: Jenna Burleigh, Joshua Hupperterz

Philadelphia Police Department

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UPDATED: 7:33 p.m. 

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — After less than two hours of deliberation Thursday afternoon, the jury has decided that Joshua Hupperterz is guilty on all counts, including first-degree murder, of killing Temple University student Jenna Burleigh in August 2017 after the pair met at a campus bar.

Burleigh's family members waited inside the courtroom for the sentencing hearing, where he was immediately sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole.

Hupperterz was charged with first-degree murder, possession of an instrument of crime, abuse of a corpse, and tampering with evidence.

The jury was made up of seven men and five women.

READ: As emotional arguments end, Hupperterz murder case now in hands of jury

Prosecutors say Hupperterz strangled and killed Burleigh after meeting at a bar. He contorted her body into a blue storage bin and left it on his grandmother's property.

Hupperterz’s DNA was found under Burleigh’s fingernails and throughout the alleged crime scene at his apartment, which he shared with roommate Jack Miley. 

Dressed in a gray suit, wearing glasses, 30-year-old Joshua Hupperterz stared motionless Thursday. Burleigh’s family clasped their hands tightly together as the foreman read Hupperterz was guilty of first-degree murder.   

Once the verdict was recorded and after the jury filed out, people in seven rows of the courtroom let go audible sobs, wiping away tears, some of whom had their hands to their mouths. Burleigh's mom and dad then stood and had long embraces with the two prosecutors who handled the case.

Then, Burleigh's mother, father, sister, cousin, and best friends from kindergarten and high school all told the judge what a special person Burleigh was when they gave victim impact statements. 

Her sister, Janelle, quoted Jenna's blog: "I want to change the world and make a difference." 

Ed Burleigh, her dad, said, "She was my sunshine, and had a beautiful soul, inside and out." He added, "Jenna did more in her short lifetime than most of us do in a lifetime." 

Jackie, her mother, said she "was a loving, caring, compassionate, sassy person, who was unapologetically herself." Then, she added, "My dreams are shattered. We are a puzzle with a missing piece. ... My tears will never dry; my heart will never mend."

The judge then asked the defendant if he had anything to say. Hupperterz consulted with his lawyer, and said, “I have nothing to say, your honor.” 

Judge Glenn Bronson then told Hupperterz "it was an outrageous, depraved crime," and "the level of brutality was shocking." Bronson told the defendant what he did after the murder "lacked basic human empathy."

"Everywhere you turned, the crime only came back to one person," said Assistant District Attorney Jason Grennell, who prosecuted the case along with fellow Assistant District Attorney Danielle Burkavage. "DNA evidence, surveillance footage, the behavior of the defendant afterward." 

"His repeated attempts to evade law enforcement," he continued, "the FBI, local police, state police and the constant and persistent lies he had throughout this entire process."

Through the trial, Hupperterz said it was he roommate who killed Burleigh, but conceded to the abuse of corpse and tampering with evidence charges, as he moved the body. 

"We are obviously very disappointed in the verdict," said David Nenner, Hupperterz's attorney, "but we respect the verdict, and really, this is Jenna’s day."

Nenner said his defendant plans on appealing.

"The next step would be to file either a motion for reconsideration on the sentence or a motion before the judge for a new trial or to go directly to the superior court, which is also an option."

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KYW Newsradio's Steve Tawa contributed to this report.