The night junior film and media arts major Jenna Burleigh was killed, Temple Police were called to the residence of former advertising student Joshua Hupperterz, who has been charged with her murder.
Noelle Sterling, a graduate student in the Lewis Katz School of Medicine, lives directly above Hupperterz’s first-floor rear apartment on 16th Street near Cecil B. Moore Avenue. She testified at a preliminary hearing last week that she called Temple Police twice on Aug. 31: first when she heard banging from the rear backyard that only Hupperterz and his roommate had access to, and again at 4 a.m. when she heard a female screaming for three minutes.
When Temple Police first arrived, Sterling let the officers into her second-floor rear apartment where they questioned her about the noises she heard. She described these to the officers as the sound of gravel getting shuffled around outside and abnormal banging sounds. She also said she was afraid someone was breaking into the building since she had never heard these sounds before.
The officers told her they would inspect the backyard and other places in the building, and advised her to get some sleep, she testified at the Justice Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice in Center City on Wednesday.
Sterling testified that she did not see officers check the backyard and did not hear them knocking on other doors in the six-unit residence.
The banging continued for more than an hour — between 2:30 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. — while Sterling stayed awake, speaking with her mom on the phone to help her calm down. After this call with her mother, Sterling attempted to sleep. She was not fully asleep when she was awakened around 4 a.m. to female screams.
“It was like a horror movie, but worse,” she testified during the preliminary hearing. When TUPD arrived again — this time with two plainclothes officers — the officers walked directly up to her apartment where she described the screams, and noted erratic barking from a dog that lived in Hupperterz’s apartment. She told police she thought it may be in the apartment building next door or it may be out front, but she knew it wasn’t coming from the backyard like the noises she’d heard earlier.
Officers again told her they’d inspect the area in the building, but she did not hear officers knock on any other doors within the residence.
Temple defended its police force’s actions in a statement.
“This matter involves criminal prosecution, so we cannot discuss details related to the case,” said university spokesman Brandon Lausch. “However, the actions of responding officers have been reviewed internally, and it has been determined that they acted in accordance with accepted police practice.”
Philadelphia Police spokesman Capt. Sekou Kinebrew told the Inquirer that PPD’s protocol if an officer responds to a woman screaming and cannot find the source of the screaming requires the officer to remain on the scene and call a supervisor. The supervisor will respond and decide whether the circumstances of the screams appear dangerous enough to access the residence through forced entry, without a warning.
TUPD’s protocol seems to vary from a Philadelphia Police protocol, which was instituted in 2005 after several instances of domestic abuse led to the policy change, the Inquirer reported.
Police said Burleigh died in Hupperterz’s residence on Aug. 31 from blunt force trauma and strangulation.
Burleigh was missing for two days before her body was found more than 100 miles from Main Campus in Wayne County, Pennsylvania, inside a plastic storage container on a property owned by Hupperterz’s grandmother.
Burleigh’s disappearance shook the Temple community after a statewide search for her body. After Burleigh was found dead, Temple Police reported higher usage rates of its Walking Escort Program, which allows students to request that a TUPD official walk them home any time from 4 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Hupperterz is in custody on charges for murder, abuse of corpse, tampering with evidence and separate drug-related charges. He will be arraigned on Dec. 20.
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