Joshua Hupperterz sentenced to life in prison for killing Temple junior Jenna Burleigh

A jury found Hupperterz guilty of first-degree murder on Thursday after two hours of deliberation.

Ed and Jacqueline Burleigh leave the Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice in January during Joshua Hupperterz's murder trial, who was later convicted of killing their daughter Jenna Burleigh, a junior film and media arts major, in Aug. 2017. | LUKE SMITH / FILE PHOTO

Joshua Hupperterz was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Thursday after being convicted of first-degree murder for killing Temple University junior Jenna Burleigh.

Court of Common Pleas Judge Glenn Bronson also sentenced Hupperterz to an additional four-and-a-half to nine years total for possession of the instrument of crime, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence. The additional sentences are the maximum time allowed for the additional charges under Pennsylvania law.

“It was quite evident to anyone who listened to these proceedings that this was an outrageous and terrible crime,” Bronson said during sentencing. “The level of brutality was shocking even to me, a person who has been doing this for a long time.”

On Thursday, the jury spent about two hours to decide that Hupperterz, a former student, murdered Burleigh in August 2017.

Burleigh’s friends and family read victim impact statements before sentencing, which followed eight days of testimony. All five said in their statements that Burleigh’s life was dedicated to giving back to those in need.

“You just extinguished the life of a person who wanted to give back in this world,” Bronson said while sentencing Hupperterz, looking him in the eyes. “Now she never will.”

Burleigh’s caring personality inspired her family to start the nonprofit, “Jenna’s Blessing Bags,” after her death. Volunteers for the organization collect personal care items and distribute them to people experiencing homelessness. Ed Burleigh said the organization has distributed more than 800 care packages since his daughter’s death.

“She was my sunshine,” said Ed Burleigh. “She has done more in her short life than most people do in theirs.”

Jenna Burleigh’s older sister Janelle Burleigh read an excerpt from Jenna Burleigh’s blog.

“I don’t want to just go through the motions in life,” she wrote. “In the end, being a good person is what really counts.”

Jaqui Burleigh, Jenna Burleigh’s mother, told stories of her daughter’s kindness, including one time she helped a complete stranger feel comfortable riding a rollercoaster. Jaqui Burleigh said that while her daughter has made her a better person, a piece of the Burleigh family will always be missing.

“As a mom, you have dreams and images of what your child will be when they grow up,” Jaqui Burleigh said. “My dreams were shattered.”

Jenna Burleigh was an activist and got involved with causes like LGTBQ+ and women’s rights, said Shaylynn Nolan, a friend of hers. Nolan also read from Jenna’s blog.

“I will be the one to make a change in this world, however small that is,” Jenna Burleigh wrote. “Our body is but a vessel that keeps us in this reality.”

Outside the Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice, Assistant District Attorney Jason Grenell praised the Burleigh family for their “strength and poise” during the trial.

“This has been justice,” he said.

Grenell also condemned Defense Attorney David Nenner’s argument that Hupperterz’s roommate, Jack Miley, killed Jenna Burleigh. Miley, a senior kinesiology major, was never charged in relation to the murder.

“There is only one man responsible for her brutal murder,” Grenell said. “That was Joshua Hupperterz. Through his attempts to pin this crime on an innocent man, the jury saw through that.”

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