What to Know
Jenna Burleigh disappeared in 2017 after leaving a bar near Temple's campus in North Philadelphia.
The former roommate of Josh Hupperterz has spent 2 days on the stand after being accused by the defendant of killing Burleigh.
Hupperterz turned down a plea offer in December. If convicted by a jury, he could face up to life in prison.
A tense morning of cross examination Friday marked the end of week one in the ongoing murder trial of Josh Hupperterz, who is accused of killing Temple University film student Jenna Burleigh in August 2017.
Much of Friday focused on interactions between Hupperterz and his former roommate, Jack Miley, who the defense claims is Burleigh’s real killer. Miley, who is not charged with a crime, testified that he slept through the alleged murder and awoke the following afternoon to find Hupperterz “sweating profusely and really nervous.”
Hupperterz's lawyer challenged Miley's testimony of a booze-fueled night that ended with Miley drunkenly asleep in his bed and Burleigh murdered in the North Philadelphia apartment he shared with Hupperterz.
”You can’t hear people screaming as if it’s a horror movie?” David Nenner, Hupperterz’s lawyer, asked Miley.
”No,” Miley answered, adding that a combination of booze, cannabis, Xanax and white noise from a floor fan prevented him from hearing Burleigh's cries.
Hupperterz, 29, is accused of killing Burleigh and then hiding her body in a plastic storage tote at his grandparents' rural Pennsylvania home.
Prosecutors have said that Hupperterz - after having oral, vaginal and anal intercourse with Burleigh - took “her down to the ground and strangled her, naked, on the kitchen floor.”
Hupperterz punched the film student 38 times, broke a cereal bowl over her head, stabbed her repeatedly after wrestling a knife from her, then strangled her so severely that he broke her larynx, accoridng to Assistant District Attorney Jason Grenell.
Hupperterz pleaded not guilty to murder and using an instrument of a crime. He pleaded guilty, however, to abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence for moving Burleigh's body to his grandparents' house.
His lawyer argued in court earlier this week that Hupperterz's roommate killed Burleigh.
But Miley contended that he passed out in the early hours of Aug. 31, 2017 after leaving Pub Webb alone. The night was “typical” for the two friends — “drinking and maybe picking up girls” at different bars near Temple’s campus, Miley said.
“He talks to every female that he comes in contact with,” Miley said of Hupperterz, his roommate for just one month before Burleigh’s death.
The former friends parted ways around 1 a.m., according to Miley. He woke up around 1 p.m. that afternoon and found Hupperterz alone in the kitchen, cleaning up blood and tending to a gash on his hand.
Initially, Hupperterz told his roommate that he “woke up in a pricker bush,” Miley said in court. Hupperterz later said the cut came from a broken cereal bowl, according to Miley.
According to testimony provided earlier in the week by the defendant’s cousin, Hupperterz also claimed to have cut his hand on a broken beer bottle.
Prosecutors have argued that Hupperterz was actually injured during a deadly struggle with Burleigh and that the cereal bowl was broken over her head. That bowl was shown in court Friday. It was covered in blood drops and hair strands when first examined, an investigator said in court.
Throughout much of Friday’s testimony, Hupperterz’s lawyer challenged Miley’s recollection, going through several pages of phone records showing that Miley and Hupperterz contacted each other after leaving Pub Webb and several times throughout the following afternoon. Miley said at least a few of the calls were to get the WiFi password for his sisters.
One of his sisters testified Friday that she sat in blood splattered on the living room futon. Blood was also found in the kitchen and bathroom and sprinkled on a broom, gauze and bits of broken ceramic, investigators said.
A corporal with Pennsylvania State Police also took the stand Friday, telling the jury that Hupperterz never mentioned Burleigh’s name during three hours of interrogation. He told officials that scratches on his neck were the result of rough sex with a woman named Vicky.
During questioning, Hupperterz appeared “calm and conversational,” according to state police, according to state police.
“It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. You stare at the phone waiting for the call,” Grenell said during his opening argument. “The Burleighs would never have that. They would never hear from their daughter again.”
Earlier in the week, Hupperterz’s cousin testified that he unknowingly helped transport Burleigh’s body out of the city in a blue tote bag.
The cousin, Erick Carlson, has not been charged in connection with the murder. The 30-year-old steel mill worker from Philadelphia said he found Hupperterz cleaning up blood in his apartment.
Hupperterz turned down a plea offer in December from the Philadelphia District Attorney's office, which had offered 30-to-60 years in prison in exchange for a guilty plea. Hupperterz could face up to life in prison if convicted at trial, which prosecutors said will continue into next week.