Witnesses in the murder trial for junior film and media arts major Jenna Burleigh detailed their interactions with her alleged killer in the days following her death Wednesday.
Joshua Hupperterz, a former Temple University student, is charged with Burleigh’s murder. He pled guilty to abuse of corpse and tampering with evidence on Tuesday.
Three witnesses on Wednesday were police, and two others had personal relationships with Hupperterz.
One alternate juror was dismissed because he previously worked with Avery Tucker, the Lyft driver who drove Hupperterz and the blue storage bin containing Burleigh’s body.
Erik Carlsen, Hupperterz’s cousin, arrived at Hupperterz’s 16th Street apartment around 6 p.m. on Aug. 31, 2017, where Carlsen found him cleaning blood in his apartment. He also noticed a cut on Hupperterz’s hand — which Hupperterz said he got from a fall — and helped him put fresh bandaging on. Prosecutors detailed a violent struggle between Burleigh and Hupperterz during their opening argument on Tuesday.
Carlsen testified that the two smoked marijuana, then Hupperterz asked Carlsen to help move the blue storage bin to his mother’s home.
“Dang, this is heavy,” Carlsen remembered he said while carrying the bin.
On the drive outside the city in Carlsen’s car, he said the two were singing along to the radio and planned a fishing trip.
Assistant District Attorney Danielle Burkavage presented the bin Burleigh’s body was found in to the jury on Wednesday, and Carlsen confirmed that he helped Hupperterz transport it. Members of Burleigh’s family held each other as they watched his testimony.
Robert Hagler, the boyfriend of Hupperterz’s mother, testified that Hupperterz and Carlsen arrived at the couple’s property with the bin in Jenkintown on Aug. 31, 2017. Hupperterz told Hagler he had a bin full of books he wanted to store in the couple’s garage, and he’d return to retrieve it.
Both Hagler and Carlsen testified that Hupperterz was acting “normal” during these interactions.
Hupperterz returned in the afternoon on Sept. 1, 2017. Hagler began to cry while describing how he helped move the blue storage bin from his garage to Tucker’s car in his driveway.
Tucker, the Lyft driver, testified he picked Hupperterz up for a ride on Sept. 1, 2017 near Main Campus, and Hupperterz offered him $200 in cash for a ride to Jenkintown, Pennsylvania then to Wayne County, Pennsylvania.
Tucker said Hupperterz fell asleep in with the bin sitting next to him in the back seat. When they arrived in Wayne County, Tucker helped Hupperterz move the bin and joked about it being filled with bricks because of its weight. Hupperterz told him it was filled with books.
Two Temple Police officers were also on the stand Wednesday. Officer Aaron Allen reported to Hupperterz’s off-campus apartment twice in the early morning hours of Aug. 31, 2017 to investigate a neighbor’s 911 calls, and testified that authorities searched the property after both calls.
Noelle Sterling, a biomedical science graduate student, testified on Tuesday that she reported a woman screaming in her second call.
Allen said he knocked on Hupperterz’s door during his second visit and didn’t hear anything inside, but said if he did, he would have “kicked the door in.”
TUPD Captain Edward Woltemate spoke to Hupperterz on the phone between Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, telling Woltemate he was so drunk he couldn’t remember the night Burleigh went missing. Hupperterz told Woltemate he didn’t know where she was.
Woltemate testified he also contacted Jack Miley, a 2017 kinesiology alumnus and Hupperterz’s roommate, who told Woltemate he was drinking with Hupperterz the night Burleigh went missing but left Pub Webb before him and “passed out” at home. Hupperterz and Burleigh were seen leaving the bar together around 2 a.m.
In his opening argument on Tuesday, Hupperterz’s defense attorney David Nenner claimed Miley killed Burleigh. Miley has not been charged with any crimes relating to Burleigh’s murder.
The Philadelphia Police Crime Scene Unit searched Hupperterz’s apartment around 11 p.m. on Sept. 1, 2017, Officer Jackie Davis testified. She found blood samples on several surfaces, an elastic hair tie on the floor and a phone with a pink sparkly case.
Witness testimony and presentation of evidence will continue on Thursday.