Roommate Testifies of a Booze-Fueled Night at Trial of Temple University Student Jenna Burleigh's Killing

Josh Hupperterz is accused of killing Jenna Burleigh after meeting her at a bar popular with Temple students

What to Know

  • Jenna Burleigh disappeared in 2017 after leaving a bar near Temple's campus in North Philadelphia.
  • During the murder trial's opening statements, the defense claimed Josh Hupperterz's roommate strangled Burleigh while trying to quiet her.
  • Hupperterz turned down a plea offer in December. If convicted by a jury, he could face up to life in prison.

Update: Defendant Josh Hupperterz's former roommate returned to the witness stand Friday.

On the night she died, murdered Temple University film major Jenna Burleigh wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “Positive Vibes Only” on the front.

The shirt, which was shown as evidence on Thursday in the trial of the 22-year-old's accused killer, Josh Hupperterz, brought Burleigh's mother to tears inside Philadelphia's Criminal Justice Center.

She clutched a rosary through much of the day.

Testimony by a crime scene investigator consumed the morning hours as Hupperterz's trial stretched into a fourth day. Hupperterz, 29, is accused of killing Burleigh in North Philadelphia and then hiding her body in a plastic storage tote at his grandparents' rural Pennsylvania home.

From the stand inside the courtroom, an investigator recounted how she found blood drops splattered all over Hupperterz's North 16th Street apartment, including in the kitchen where prosecutors contend the young woman's life was ended. 

Bits of broken ceramic also were shown photographed next to a black hair tie on the kitchen floor.

Photos: The Life of Jenna Burleigh

Next on the stand Thursday was Hupperterz’s former roommate, Jack Miley, who shared his side of what happened the night and early morning leading up to Burleigh's death, telling the jury that he and Hupperterz visited multiple bars throughout the evening. He described it as a “typical night out- drinking and maybe picking up girls.”

He and Hupperterz had been friends for several years but only lived together for 30 days before Burleigh’s death, Miley said.

The 24-year-old former Temple student began his testimony just two days after Hupperterz's defense attorney made an extraordinary accusation in his opening statement to the jury. On Tuesday, defense attorney David Nenner accused Miley of being Burleigh's killer.

But Miley, who has not been charged with a crime, said he did not know about Burleigh’s disappearance until the day after he went out drinking with Hupperterz.

He did recall, however, waking up in the afternoon of Aug. 31 2017 to find Hupperterz with a deep gash on his hand and cleaning up blood.

“He said he woke up in a pricker bush,” Miley testified Thursday. “I thought it was funny, honestly.”

It had been a long night. Miley and Hupperterz drank several beers at their apartment before bar hopping on what Temple students call “Wild Wednesday.” They went to several places before settling on Pub Webb. There, the two friends drank and Miley sang karaoke, he testified. 

He left the bar around 1 a.m. on the morning of Aug. 31, according to surveillance video shown in court. Miley slept in late that afternoon and woke up to find his roommate with a cut so deep, Miley could “see bone,” he said.

As a multiagency investigation unfolded in Philadelphia, Miley traveled to New York on a pre-planned family vacation with his sisters. It was during a night out with relatives on Sept. 1 2017  that he learned of Burleigh’s disappearance from Temple police, he said.

Miley then called Hupperterz at the request of law enforcement officials, but Hupperterz said he was in North Carolina, Miley said in court. 

”I honestly don’t know what to expect from this kid at this point,” Miley later texted a friend about Hupperterz. 

His testimony is expected to continue Friday morning.

Hupperterz pleaded not guilty to murder and using an instrument of a crime. He pleaded guilty to abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence for moving Burleigh's body to his grandparent's house.

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.”

Grenell said 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 he broke her larynx.

Josh Hupperterz, who is on trial for the 2017 murder of Temple Student Jenna Burleigh, claimed that it was his roommate who murdered her. He has pleaded not guilty to murder and use of an instrument of a crime, but guilty to abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence.

“It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. You stare at the phone waiting for the call,” Grenell said. “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.

"I said, 'Dang, this is heavy,'" Erick Carlson recalled saying at his cousin's apartment.

Inside, it turned out, was the body of the Burleigh, authorities said. 

Wednesday was day two of the trial for Josh Hupperterz. He was accused of beating and strangling Jenna Burleigh, a Temple student, after he met her at a bar. Jurors heard from witnesses, including Hupperterz’s cousin, who claimed he unknowingly helped move Burleigh’s body.

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. An investigator testified Thursday that blood was found in various places inside the residence, including a futon, clothing, toilet paper and gauze. 

Hupperterz told Carlson that he had cut his hand on a broken beer bottle and needed help taking some books to his mom's house in Jenkintown. 

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 is expected to last for up to two weeks.

Initial accounts by investigators of Burleigh's death alleged a grisly murder and cover-up that are eerily similar to circumstances surrounding Hupperterz's father's murder 24 years earlier.

Police documents have revealed new details on the murder of Temple University student Jenna Burleigh. The documents reveal that the suspect’s grandfather was the one who found her body inside a tote in the shed of his estranged wife’s home. 

The body of Octavio Hupperterz was found wrapped in a trash bag outside of a business in the Wyndmoor section of Springfield Township, Montgomery County, in 1993. Josh Hupperterz was 4 at the time.

Octavio died from a bullet to the back of the head, his hands tied behind his back and shoved into a garbage bag when he was found.

Sources had told NBC10 in 2017 that investigators believed the elder Hupperterz, who lived in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, was killed at another location and his body dumped in Montgomery County.

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