Murder charges filed in Temple University student's death

Jenna Burleigh, a 22-year-old Temple University student, was last seen around 2 a.m. on Aug. 31 near the campus in North Philadelphia.

The man who was last seen with missing Temple University student Jenna Burleigh has been charged with her murder and was ordered held without bail Sunday morning, according to court documents.

Joshua Hupperterz, 29, admitted to “elements of the crime” in a partial confession, Philadelphia Police Capt. John Ryan, commanding officer of the homicide unit, told reporters Saturday night without providing details.

Hupperterz was arraigned at 4:52 a.m. Sunday on charges of murder, abuse of a corpse, and other crimes.

Camera icon Philadelphia Police Department
Joshua Hupperterz, 29, from North 16th Street was arrested for his involvement in the murder of Jenna Burleigh. Hupperterz is charged with: Murder, Tampering with Evidence, Abuse of Corpse; Manufacturing with the Intent to Deliver and related offenses.

Burleigh, 22, a commuter student from Lower Salford Township, Montgomery County, was last seen near the Temple campus in North Philadelphia around 2 a.m. Thursday. She was reported missing by her father later that day.

Burleigh’s body was found Saturday afternoon at the Wayne County home of Hupperterz’s grandmother, Ryan said.

“Our Beautiful Angel Jenna is now in Heaven,” Burleigh’s father, Edward, posted Saturday evening on Facebook. “Now I know for sure that you can have a ‘broken heart’ RIP honey.”

Police found blood, large quantities of drugs and cash in Hupperterz’s North Philadelphia home, a police source said, which sits around the corner from Pub Webb, a bar where Burleigh apparently met him for the first time.

Hupperterz was picked up Saturday morning at his grandmother’s home in Hawley, 140 miles north of Philadelphia.

While police officials discussed the facts of the case, Burleigh’s family gathered inside their two-story brick house in a quiet, upscale subdivision in Harleysville. Candles flickered in their windows as a light rain fell outside. A family friend lamented the senseless nature of Burleigh’s death, but said her parents were too grief-stricken to talk.

Ryan said the killing did not appear to be premeditated, and that police did not yet know a cause of death. Burleigh was killed in Philadelphia, he said, then her body was moved to the Jenkintown home of Hupperterz’s mother and stepfather, before finally being transported to the Wayne County property where investigators made the grim discovery.

Sources said local surveillance cameras captured footage of Hupperterz, a former Temple student who last took classes in the spring, walking with Burleigh to his apartment early Thursday morning.

On Friday night, Philadelphia police executed a search warrant at that home in the 1700 block of North 16th Street, police spokeswoman Officer Tanya Little said.

In the home, police found blood spattered near the kitchen sink, rear door, and on a trash can lid, along with 10 to 15 pillow case-size bags of marijuana and about $20,000 in cash, a police source said.

A neighbor heard screams coming from the apartment around 4 a.m. Thursday, the source said.

Hupperterz had scratches on his face and a cut of some kind on his hand. He told detectives that he injured his hand on a broken bowl in his home, according to the source.

Ryan said Hupperterz was the only person in police custody and would be charged with murder and related offenses. He did not rule out the possibility of other arrests, though he described Hupperterz as the “primary individual” involved in Burleigh’s death.

Camera icon Avi Steinhardt
Police visited a Jenkintown house owned by Hupperterz’s mother and stepfather on Saturday.

A roommate who lived with Hupperterz in the North Philadelphia property had obtained a lawyer, but had not made any statements to investigators, sources said.

Burleigh was a junior transfer student from Montgomery County College majoring in film and media arts.

Passionate about issues of social justice and equity, Burleigh was outspoken about racism, feminism, and LGBTQ rights.

“I truly believe in the good in people and the magic that can be found in all of us,” she wrote in her most recent blog post in March.

“I will always fight for what’s right. I will fight for intersectional feminism because the whitewashing has to stop,” she wrote. “I will always fight for equality for ALL. And my journey is just getting started.”

In a statement released Saturday evening, Temple University President Richard M. Englert said the school was “deeply saddened” to learn of Burleigh’s murder. “Our deepest sympathies go out to Jenna’s family and her classmates, both here at Temple and at Montgomery County Community College,” he said.

According to court records, Hupperterz pleaded guilty in 2013 to theft from a motor vehicle and in 2011 to possession of drug paraphernalia. Hupperterz also popped up on the radar of police in Scranton in 2013, when he allegedly broke into a home and stole electronics, credit cards, laundry detergent, and a half keg of beer.