The father of slain Temple University student Jenna Burleigh told jurors Wednesday of the night he last saw his daughter and how he reported her missing the next day.
Speaking in a level voice on the final day of courtroom testimony in his 22-year-old daughter’s slaying, Ed Burleigh said that on the night of Aug. 30, 2017, they had dinner at the Draught Horse on Temple’s campus. “I had an opportunity to say goodbye, give her a hug,” he testified.
As prosecutors showed a video-surveillance image of the father and his second-oldest child hugging on a sidewalk, Ed Burleigh described to jurors what she was wearing that night: A light-blue shirt, brown boots, tights with a pattern.
“Her hair?” asked Assistant District Attorney Danielle Burkavage.
“Pigtails,” her father replied.
The next day, he said, no one had heard from his daughter, and he went to Temple police, then to the Lower Salford Township Police Department in Harleysville, Montgomery County, to report her missing. Burleigh lived with her parents in Harleysville and commuted to Temple. It was her first week at the North Philadelphia school as a transfer student.
Asked by the prosecutor if he ever heard from his daughter again, the father replied: “No, we have not heard from her.”
Ed Burleigh was the last prosecution witness called to the stand, after which prosecutors rested in the trial of Joshua Hupperterz, 30, who is accused of beating, stabbing, and strangling Burleigh in his North Philadelphia apartment.
Hupperterz did not take the stand in his own defense. He has pleaded guilty to the two charges related to transporting Burleigh’s body to his mother’s Jenkintown garage, then to his grandmother’s wooded lakeside property in the Poconos, where her body was found in a blue plastic storage bin in a metal shed. He has pleaded not guilty to killing her.
Defense attorney David Nenner has contended that his client’s roommate, Jack Miley, intervened in a 4 a.m. kitchen fight that Hupperterz allegedly had with Burleigh, then strangled Burleigh to quiet her screams. Authorities have not implicated Miley in the crime. Miley last week denied any role, saying he was asleep in his basement-level bedroom the night of the killing and heard no screams.
Nenner on Wednesday called as character witnesses Hupperterz’s younger brother, Brian, 26, and mother, Gina — both testified that Hupperterz has a peaceful reputation — and a friend who testified that Hupperterz has a nonviolent one.
Jurors saw a video that showed Hupperterz, then a 29-year-old former Temple student, approach Burleigh at 1:38 a.m. as she sat alone at the bar in Pub Webb on Cecil B. Moore Avenue. She had planned to stay overnight with one of her friends in his off-campus apartment, according to earlier testimony.
Surveillance videos showed Hupperterz and Burleigh sitting and talking, then leaving together shortly after the 2 a.m. closing time and walking to his apartment around the corner on North 16th Street. Prosecutors have said that in the first-floor rear apartment, what began as consensual sex between the two turned nonconsensual around 4 a.m., a time when the second-floor-rear apartment neighbor heard screams.
About that time, prosecutors say, Burleigh was killed.
Sam Gulino, Philadelphia’s chief medical examiner, testified Tuesday that Burleigh died from strangulation.
During Gulino’s testimony, jurors saw 13 autopsy photos detailing Burleigh’s wounds. Noting various scrape marks around Burleigh’s neck, Gulino testified that they likely had been caused by her own fingernails. Such scrapes “generally indicate a person trying to pull whatever’s on their neck off,” he said.
Gulino told Assistant District Attorney Jason Grenell the bruises, cuts, and lacerations were consistent with having been punched multiple times, stabbed, and hit over the head with a ceramic bowl, then strangled.