What to Know
- A jury took less than two hours to find Hupperterz guilty.
- Jenna Burleigh's parents attended every day of the nearly two-week trial.
- Josh Hupperterz had pleaded guilty to abuse of a corpse for putting Burleigh's body in the shed, but not guilty to her murder.
Josh Hupperterz was found guilty of first-degree murder Thursday in the 2017 slaying of then-Temple University student Jenna Burleigh, after less than two hours of deliberations by the jury.
Jurors found that Hupperterz killed Burleigh in a bloody fight following the young woman's objection to a sex act inside the 29-year-old's apartment near Temple's North Philadelphia campus.
Hupperterz was sentenced by Common Pleas Judge Glenn Bronson to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Bronson called the murder "outrageous and depraved and terrible."
Burleigh was killed because she “had the audacity to say no," Assistant District Attorney Jason Grenell said during his impassioned closing argument Thursday in a Philadelphia courtroom.
”Josh Hupperterz killed this girl,” he told the jury. “The last thing she saw before dying was [his] face.”
Grenell’s dramatic statements followed nearly two hours of closing arugments by Hupperterz’s lawyer, David Nenner, who tried to pin the murder on his client’s roommate, Jack Miley.
The jury began deliberating shortly after 2 p.m. By 3:45 p.m., they had reached a verdict.
Hupperterz was found guilty of strangling Burleigh, stuffing her body into a storage bin and then trying to hide it at his grandparents’ rural property in Wayne County, Pennsylvania.
He had pleaded not guilty to murder and using an instrument of a crime, but previously conceded to abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence. He was found guilty on all charges.
Hupperterz's trial started off with a twist when his defense attorney accused Miley of killing Burleigh. But Miley, who was not charged with a crime, testified that he passed out after drinking heavily, smoking cannabis and taking 1 mg of Xanax, and did not hear the violent struggle unfolding upstairs.
Prosecutors said that Burleigh and Hupperterz met at a popular bar near Temple’s campus, walked back to Hupperterz's apartment and fought violently after she refused a sex act.
On Thursday, Grenell showed the court video of their first encounter at Pub Webb.
Burleigh, her hair parted in pigtails, sat alone at the bar when Hupperterz approached her sometime after 1:30 a.m., according to the video. She initially appeared to refuse his advances but eventually the two stumbled back together to Hupperterz’s apartment.
By 4:30 a.m., she was dead, prosecutors said.
Grenell, in his closing argument, detailed how Hupperterz allegedly “pummeled, beat, hit her and held her down” during their deadly fight.
Later, on the afternoon of Aug. 31, 2017, Hupperterz enlisted the unwitting help of his cousin and a Lyft driver to move Burleigh’s body, which had been folded into a bin, to his grandparents’ house in rural Pennsylvania, Grenell said.
“He treated a human body like trash,” he said.
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Grenell brought that bin to court Thursday and also showed pictures of Burleigh’s body crammed inside.
Nenner, in his closing argument, stuck to his theory that the roommate did it.
”Jack Miley lied,” he said.
Grenell called the allegations a “Hail Mary” by a defendant who knew he is guilty.
Miley, meanwhile, testified earlier in the trial that he fell asleep long before the violence broke out between Hupperterz and Burleigh, and that he didn't wake up until 1 p.m. later that day. When he did, Hupperterz was alone in the kitchen cleaning up blood.
During his statement, Grenell apologized to Miley and told jurors that Nenner’s allegations were “absurd.”
“This man is guilty of first-degree murder,” Grenell said of Hupperterz, adding that he choked Burleigh for three minutes before she died.
“If he had let go, she would have survived,” Grenell told the jury.
The trial, which started last week, took an emotional turn Wednesday when Burleigh's father, Joseph Ed Burleigh, described the last time he saw his daughter alive.
She had car trouble and called her dad for help, he said. He drove from their family home in Montgomery County to Philadelphia and called AAA. After, they went to dinner and shared one last hug, he said.
"I had the opportunity to say goodbye," the father testified.
The Burleigh parents have looked on every day of the trial. Her mother clutched a rosary through much of the proceedings.
After the sentence came down Thursday evening, the family wept and hug. Both of Burleigh’s parents spoke before sentencing and attempted to describe their immeasurable loss through tears.
”My dreams are shattered,” Burleigh’s mom, Jaqueline Burleigh, said. “We are lost.”
Hupperterz’s mother has also been present, wearing large sunglasses and avoiding questions from the media.
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