News

Behind Jenna Burleigh’s death

The student was found dead after disappearing near Pub Webb early Thursday morning.

UPDATE at 6:05 p.m. Tuesday

Temple Student Government and Student Activities will host a vigil for Jenna Burleigh on Thursday from 3 to 5 p.m. in Founder’s Garden.

On Wednesday night, Ed Burleigh ate dinner with his daughter, junior film and media arts major Jenna Burleigh. When they finished, she asked him to drop her off at a friend’s house near Main Campus.

Burleigh was just about to finish her first week at Temple, after transferring as a commuter student from Montgomery County Community College. She was going out to have fun with friends at Pub Webb, a bar on Cecil B. Moore Avenue near 16th Street.

This car ride with Burleigh would be the last time her father saw his 22-year-old daughter before his “beautiful Angel Jenna” was “in Heaven,” as he later wrote on Facebook.

Burleigh went missing early Thursday morning. After a regional search, she was found dead in a storage container on Saturday afternoon, more than 100 miles away from Temple.

Missing

Burleigh was reported missing to Temple and Lower Salford Township police by her father on Thursday evening after he discovered she hadn’t attended her class on Thursday. She hadn’t been seen since 2 a.m. that morning near Pub Webb.

Temple Police launched an investigation into her disappearance with Lower Salford and Philadelphia police. Burleigh’s sister, Janelle, posted a photo on Facebook asking anyone who had seen her sister to call her or her dad, leaving his phone number in the post. The post was shared more than 22,000 times, and a separate notice was sent by Temple Police to all university email addresses asking for information about her disappearance. Her brother was seen on campus hanging up home-made “missing” flyers on Friday.

On Friday, a resident in an apartment on 16th Street near Cecil B. Moore Avenue told police he came home to cleaning products and what looked to him like someone had attempted to clean up blood, according to 6ABC. This information led police to obtain a search warrant for the apartment, about a block away from the bar where Burleigh was last seen.

Investigation

Joshua Hupperterz, a former Temple student, lives in the apartment that police searched. It was his roommate who found the blood. Security footage obtained by police showed Burleigh leaving Pub Webb around 2 a.m with Hupperterz, who last took classes at the university in Spring 2017.

In his apartment, police found blood on a sink, the apartment’s rear door and on a trash can lid. They also found 10 to 15 pillow case-sized bags of marijuana and $20,000 in cash, police told the Inquirer.

Temple Police first made contact with Hupperterz by phone and asked him what he knew about Burleigh’s disappearance. He said he was “so drunk” when he left the bar he had no memory of who he had been with, Philadelphia Police Department Officer Tanya Little wrote in the police report.

Hupperterz was taken into custody for questioning after being found more than 100 miles away from Main Campus in Wayne County, Pennsylvania.

This is where police would later find Burleigh’s body, stowed away in a storage container in a shed on his grandmother’s lakefront property.

While in custody, Hupperterz admitted to “elements” of the crime, said Philadelphia Police Capt. John Ryan in a press conference on Saturday.

On Sunday, the Wayne County coroner reported that Burleigh died from blunt force trauma and strangulation, according to the Inquirer.

Police believe Burleigh was killed in the 16th Street apartment. Hupperterz allegedly moved her body from the apartment in a storage bin to his mother’s home in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania where it remained overnight. On Friday, he used the car service Lyft for a ride to his grandmother’s Wayne County property, where he allegedly hid Burleigh’s body in a shed.

Hupperterz was charged with murder, abuse of corpse, tampering with evidence and other drug-related offenses on Sunday.

The suspect

Leading up to Hupperterz’s charges, his neighbors and former fellow students have characterized Hupperterz as “friendly,” but always off-putting.

Hupperterz was one of the first people junior philosophy and psychology major Sharmila Choudhury knew in Philadelphia. She’s known him for about three and a half years and visited his previous apartment multiple times with friends. He’s always made her uncomfortable, she said.

“I’m not surprised that he did this because he made me feel sick to my stomach when I was in his presence,” she said.

Choudhury said she thought he had “unhealthy behaviors” and alleged he dealt drugs. Sometimes he would offer her drugs, which she said she’d always decline.

Choudhury’s added that Hupperterz consistently verbally sexually harassed her, and she endured offensive comments whenever she was near him. These would include frequently commenting on her sister’s physical appearance to make Choudhury uncomfortable.

He didn’t just have problems with women — he was often “arrogant and narcissistic” toward other men, Choudhury said.

“I just feel so awful that Jenna had to be the victim of all this,” Choudhury said. “It breaks my heart because…this beautiful girl, who just transferred to Temple University a week ago, bright, ambitious, motivated, passionate, and he had to ruin that for her.”

“She had her whole life ahead of her,” she added.

Junior athletic training major Natalie Abulhawa said she often caught Hupperterz lying.

Abulhawa lived across the street from Hupperterz last year near Main Campus and she saw him “every day,” she said. Hupperterz always gave her a “bad feeling” and he often asked her to come over and hang out with him. She always declined.

Hupperterz told her he was a member of Temple’s men’s soccer team. He was never listed on a men’s soccer roster during his time at Temple, according to OwlSports, the university’s official Athletics website. He also told Abulhawa that his father was a professional soccer player.

According to a report by the Inquirer, the man authorities believe to be Hupperterz’s father was killed in 1993, when Hupperterz was 4 years old. Octavio Celso Hupperterz was shot in the back of the head and found wrapped in a trash bag with his hands tied in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

Hupperterz, 29, was a junior advertising and risk management major at the university. He transferred to Temple in 2014 from Lackawanna College, according to the Inquirer.

Hupperterz’s murder charges are not his first encounter with the Pennsylvania criminal justice system. Court records show he was convicted twice in the past after pleading guilty: once in 2011 for possession of drug paraphernalia and in 2013 for theft from a motor vehicle.

“For [the suspect] to be somebody that I saw so frequently, was always talking to, would always ask me to hang out with him, it was just really weird,” Abulhawa said.

University reaction

“We are devastated and heartbroken to hear that her life has been cut short,” Temple Student Government wrote of Burleigh in a statement to the Temple community on Saturday.

President Richard Englert also released a statement, updating students about Burleigh’s death. He said students who are affected by this “tragic event” should utilize Tuttleman Counseling Services and gave his “deepest sympathies” to Burleigh’s family.

Although there was no specific action by the university following Burleigh’s death, TSG and students are organizing vigils and memorials to honor her life.

Salvatore Mirando, a senior musical theater major, organized a small gathering near the new owl statue on Polett Walk near Liacouras on Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. He encourages students to bring candles, flowers and stop for a moment of silence for Burleigh.

“I didn’t know Jenna, but I know a lot of people have been asking for something to happen,” Mirando said. “I really wanted to get the ball rolling.”

See pictures from the memorial organized by senior musical theater major Salvador Mirando

The Temple Progressive NAACP will host a memorial service for Burleigh on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. in the skate park at the corner of Cecil B. Moore Avenue and Broad Street.

TSG and Student Activities will also host a vigil for Burleigh on Thursday, but have not determined the time yet, Student Body President Tyrell Mann-Barnes said.

A resident from Burleigh’s hometown, Harleysville, Pennsylvania, started a GoFundMe campaign to support the Burleigh family. So far, it has raised more than $5,000 for the Burleigh family.

In a statement, TSG praised Burleigh for her social activism, which aligned with issues that members of the TSG administration “hold close” to their heart.

“She spent much of her time combating racism as well as defending rights for the LGBTQIA+ community,” it read.

Kelly Brennan contributed reporting.

Gillian McGoldrick

can be reached at gillian.mcgoldrick@temple.edu
Or you can follow Gillian on Twitter @gill_mcgoldrick
Follow The Temple News @TheTempleNews

Latest posts by Gillian McGoldrick (see all)

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    *

    * Copy This Password *

    * Type Or Paste Password Here *

    786,340 Spam Comments Blocked so far by Spam Free Wordpress

    You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>