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Temple student died by ‘blunt trauma and strangulation,’ and a man is charged with murder

Jenna Burleigh (Courtesy of Temple University Police)

Jenna Burleigh, a 22-year-old Temple University student reported missing last week, was found dead in Pennsylvania on Saturday, leading to murder charges for a man who was last seen leaving a Philadelphia bar with the woman, police said.

The cause of Burleigh’s death was listed as “combined effects of blunt trauma and strangulation,” according to the Wayne County Coroner.

Police on Sunday charged Joshua Hupperterz, 29, with murder, tampering with evidence, abuse of a corpse and other offenses. Surveillance camera footage had shown Hupperterz and Burleigh leaving Pub Webb, near the Temple University campus, about 2 a.m. Thursday.

Later that day, Burleigh’s father reported his daughter missing, launching a missing-persons investigation by local and campus police. When Temple University police contacted Hupperterz about Burleigh’s disappearance, the man claimed he had been too intoxicated after leaving the bar to recall who was with him.

After speaking with Hupperterz’s roommate, investigators obtained a search warrant for his apartment, just around the block from Pub Webb, Philadelphia police said. A search of his residence “revealed further evidence into the investigation and narcotics,” according to police.

Just before 9 p.m. Friday, state police officers found and arrested Hupperterz at his grandmother’s home in Hawley, Pa., about 140 miles north of Philadelphia in Wayne County. He is being held without bail, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

On Saturday, a body presumed to be Burleigh’s was discovered at the home, police said.

“Two crime scenes were processed,” Philadelphia police Capt. John Ryan said at a news conference Saturday, referring to Hupperterz’s apartment near Pub Webb and a residence in Jenkintown, Pa., about 10 miles north of Philadelphia. Ryan did not give further details about the crime scenes, but said that Hupperterz had confessed to “elements of the crime.”

There was no indication Hupperterz and Burleigh knew each other previously, he added.

Ryan told reporters police believe Burleigh was killed in Philadelphia; her body was then moved to the Jenkintown residence before finally being taken to Wayne County, he said.

The investigation is ongoing.

Quoting an unnamed police source, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Hupperterz had been found with scratches on his face and a cut on his hand, which he said he had gotten from a broken bowl. The newspaper identified Hupperterz as a former Temple University student who frequently tried inviting a neighbor over to smoke pot and who had a recent history of theft:

Once, [neighbor Natalie Abdulhawa] said she witnessed him having an altercation with a woman who burst through his gate and punched him. She said she did not know who the woman was, but heard screams and ran outside to see what was going on.
He offered her painkillers after she had knee surgery, she said, which she also declined. And when she told him she played soccer, she said he told her that his father was a professional soccer player and that Hupperterz himself used to play for the Temple men’s soccer team. Abdulhawa said she searched online for any evidence that he had played on the Temple team, and suspected it was a lie.
… According to court records, Hupperterz pleaded guilty in 2013 to theft from a motor vehicle and in 2011 to possession of drug paraphernalia. Hupperterz also popped up on the radar of police in Scranton in 2013, when he allegedly broke into a home and stole electronics, credit cards, laundry detergent, and a half keg of beer.

Temple University president Richard M. Englert said in a statement the community was “deeply saddened” to learn of Burleigh’s death. Classes at the university’s Philadelphia campus had just begun Monday, and it had been Burleigh’s first week at Temple, he said.

Burleigh had transferred as a junior from Montgomery County Community College, majoring in film and media arts.

“Our deepest sympathies go out to Jenna’s family and her classmates, both here at Temple and at Montgomery County Community College,” Englert said.

In a statement, Temple Student Government leaders described Burleigh as “unapologetically herself” and “an incredibly woke young woman.”

“We are devastated and heartbroken to hear that her life has been cut short,” the statement read. “We can only hope that justice is served whoever committed this heinous crime.”

Philadelphia police Commissioner Richard Ross Jr. said Saturday the case had struck a deep chord with him as the father of a 22-year-old himself.

“Instances like this, they really hit home,” Ross said. “Particularly thinking about the heartache and grief that those parents must be going through right now.”

In new information released Sunday, police said Ed Burleigh, Jenna’s father, had met his daughter for dinner Wednesday night, when she told him she was going to go out with a group of friends that night.

“Mr. Burleigh then dropped his daughter off at her friend’s house in the Temple area and proceeded home,” police said. “He had not heard from his daughter since that time, which is very unusual.”

The following day, Ed Burleigh went to Temple University and discovered his daughter had not gone to class that day.

Late Saturday, Ed Burleigh posted a photo of his daughter on Facebook, with a simple caption: “Our Beautiful Angel Jenna is now in Heaven. Now I know for sure that you can have a ‘broken heart’ RIP honey.”

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