A cousin of accused murderer Joshua Hupperterz on Wednesday told jurors that he found Hupperterz cleaning blood off the floor and wall in his North Philadelphia apartment in August 2017 and then helped him transport a blue plastic bin from the unit — but that he didn’t know it contained the body of Temple student Jenna Burleigh.
Erik Carlsen, 30, testified that his cousin’s fingers were wrapped in bloodied gauze and that Hupperterz blamed the injury on a broken bottle. He also told jurors that he agreed to help Hupperterz transport the bin to Hupperterz’s mother’s home in Jenkintown. Asked by Assistant District Attorney Danielle Burkavage how heavy the bin was, Carlsen said it was about 100 pounds.
"I just said, ‘Like, dang, it’s heavy,' " he testified. Carlsen said that while he drove to Jenkintown, Hupperterz appeared “normal” and the two sang along with songs on the radio.
His testimony came as jurors heard a second day of evidence against Hupperterz, accused of beating, stabbing, and strangling Burleigh two years ago after she cut short their sexual encounter, then trying to hide her body at his grandmother’s property in the Poconos.
During Carlsen’s testimony, Burkavage asked Philadelphia Police Officer Jacqueline Davis to show jurors the actual blue storage bin. Upon seeing it, Burleigh’s mother, Jaqui, sitting in the gallery, appeared emotional and soon left the courtroom.
Authorities have said that Hupperterz, then a 29-year-old former Temple student, met the 22-year-old Burleigh early on Aug. 31, 2017, at Pub Webb, a Cecil B. Moore Avenue bar, and the pair returned to his apartment on North 16th Street shortly after 2 a.m.
Temple Police Officer Aaron Allen testified that he and other officers responded to a 2:24 a.m. 911 call for a possible burglary at the building from a woman who lived above Hupperterz’s first-floor rear apartment and heard noises in the backyard. He said he tried to get into the backyard, but couldn’t — and didn’t see anything amiss. Other officers spoke to the caller.
Allen said he also responded to a 4:13 a.m. call from the same neighbor. This time, he and another officer visited the caller, “who said she heard screaming,” he told jurors. Allen said he didn’t see any light from Hupperterz’s apartment, but knocked loudly and yelled “Temple Police!” a few times. No one answered and he didn’t hear anything, he said.
Prosecutors contend that Hupperterz had just ended a violent fight with Burleigh by strangling her after he pummeled and stabbed her and smashed a cereal bowl over her head. Earlier, the two had consensual sex, but it turned nonconsensual when Burleigh refused to participate in anal sex, Assistant District Attorney Jason Grenell told jurors Tuesday.
Prosecutors contend that after killing Burleigh, Hupperterz put her body in the blue storage bin and hid it on his grandmother’s property in the Poconos.
Hupperterz’s lawyer, David Nenner, has countered that it was his client’s roommate, Jack Miley, who intervened in the 4 a.m. kitchen fight and killed Burleigh. Prosecutors have disputed that contention; Miley is expected to testify this week.
Temple Police Capt. Edward Woltemate testified that he called Hupperterz about Burleigh’s disappearance around 5:15 p.m. Aug. 31, but got voicemail. Hupperterz called him back about 11 p.m. and claimed he “was so drunk" the previous night and didn’t recall leaving Pub Webb with a woman, the captain testified.
Woltemate said the next afternoon he called Hupperterz’s roommate. Miley told the captain that he left the bar before Hupperterz, then went home and “passed out,” and didn’t see Hupperterz with a woman.
Another witness, Lyft driver Avery Tucker, testified that about 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 1, he picked Hupperterz up in North Philadelphia. Hupperterz had a small dog with him. Hupperterz asked him to drive him first to Jenkintown, then to a place farther north in the state and said he would pay him $200, Tucker said.
At the Jenkintown home, Tucker testified, Hupperterz and a man who was inside the home carried a blue bin from the garage and put it in Tucker’s Nissan hatchback. With Hupperterz sitting in the back next to the bin, at one time taking a nap, Tucker said he drove to a home in Wayne County, Pa., where he helped Hupperterz place the bin outside a garage. Tucker called the bin “unusually heavy.”