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Donna Jou's Killer Set Free, Anguished Family Cries Foul

The family of the 19-year-old Rancho Santa Margarita woman, who disappeared in June 2007, wants her body found and the case reopened so that John Burgess can be convicted of murder.

The parents of a college student objected to the release Wednesday of a man who served roughly half of a five-year prison term after admitting he plied the young woman with drugs and dumped her body in the ocean after she overdosed on drugs at his Westside home in June 2007.

she shared with her mother during her summer break from San Diego State.

"Donna has not been found. Her case must be reopened and investigated. Until that happens, we will never give up. We want her returned to us and for us, her case will always be open,"' Donna Jou's father told reporters outside the courthouse where John Steven "Sinjin" Burgess pleaded guilty on May 6, 2009, to involuntary manslaughter and concealment of an accidental death.

Burgess, now 39, was released from the Men's Central Jail around 3:45 p.m. and was turned over to parole officers "to get fitted for a GPS device,"' according to sheriff's Deputy Mark Pope.

The young woman's father, Reza Jou, noted that the family has unsuccessfully asked the District Attorney's Office to reopen the investigation into his 19-year-old daughter's disappearance.

"This criminal mastermind conned the system of justice and got away with murder,'' Reza Jou told reporters.

He said the family has "mixed feelings"' on what may have happened to his daughter, who was last seen by her family on June 23, 2007.

"Some days I feel that she is alive. Some days I don't feel the same way. I'm in limbo,'' the father said. "I don't know if I have to mourn for her loss or I still have to have hope to see her alive."

The woman's mother, Nili, wearing a T-shirt with her daughter's photo, told reporters, "In my heart, I know my daughter is alive, drugged somewhere, that she cannot do anything. She cannot defend herself. She cannot do any actions to free herself and she's waiting for us to rescue her. We're not going to sit still and let this man just get away with 2 1/2 years ..."

"A monster is getting out,'' she said. "What do we have to do? We have to watch our kids. We have to watch our sisters. We have to watch our mothers."

Before his sentencing, Burgess apologized to the victim's family, telling them that "she overdosed, I panicked'' and maintaining to them that he was "not capable of hurting your daughter."

He admitted giving drugs to the aspiring neurosurgeon from Rancho Santa Margarita after meeting her through an advertisement she placed on Craigslist.com. Her family said Donna Jou had advertised as a math tutor.

When he entered his plea, Burgess said he brought Jou to his house in the Palms area of Los Angeles, where there was alcohol and drugs, including marijuana, cocaine and heroin.

"I gave her some," he said at the May 2009 hearing as the victim's family sat two rows behind him in court.

Burgess—who pleaded no contest in October 2007 to failing to register as a sex offender and was sentenced to three years in prison—said he awoke in the morning and "she was gone ... she was dead."

He said in May 2009 that he panicked, got scared and "made a really bad decision. He said he went to his sailboat and "gave her to the sea."

Despite an extensive search, her body has never been found.

Before he was sentenced, Burgess met with Jou's parents to describe for them what happened to their daughter, a San Diego State University honors student. But they have remained unconvinced that Burgess told the full story about their daughter's death.

"I wanted him to come clear. He was coached by his criminal attorney to say what he said," Reza Jou said.

He said his daughter was a straight-A student who did not use drugs and accused authorities of accepting what Burgess told them without any evidence to back it up.

Nili Jou noted that Deputy District Attorney David Walgren—who has more recently successfully prosecuted Dr. Conrad Murray for involuntary manslaughter for singer Michael Jackson's death—handled the case against Burgess.

"... Mr. Walgren (made) me feel like we did you a favor, you know, be satisfied with that," she said. "Hell no, you haven't found my daughter. I'm not going to be satisfied with anything like that."

She implored authorities to "reopen the case and find my daughter and convict him (Burgess) of murder."

In August, Gary Hearnsberger, head of the District Attorney's Major Crimes Division, wrote Reza Jou a five-page letter backing the conclusions of the investigation conducted by police and prosecutors and denying the father's assertions that prosecutors were "conned" by Burgess into believing that Donna Jou willingly took drugs.

Hearnsberger noted that "the only credible, existing evidence that could be proved is that the young woman willingly attended a party to participate in drug use, and that she did, in fact, participate in drug use at the party. This was not only confirmed by witness accounts, but was also confirmed by the Craigslist postings and email exchanges between your daughter and Mr. Burgess."

He also wrote that it was virtually unprecedented for a defendant to meet privately with a victim's family to answer their questions, and credited the work done by Walgren and the Los Angeles Police Department's Robbery Homicide Division, calling it a "stellar and exhaustive" investigation.

—City News Service

Joker Joe December 08, 2011 at 03:52 PM
Justice does not come thru the courts. It comes from the barrel of a gun!!
Engines February 27, 2012 at 10:54 PM
Absolutely the case should be re-opened. I can't believe what I am reading. 5 years for this? God bless the poor parents, this is uncceptable as it currently stands.
Rich Kane November 29, 2012 at 03:29 AM
Larry Flintridge: Comment deleted due to profanites. Keep it clean or else ...
Karl H. November 29, 2012 at 03:54 AM
Good for you Mr. Rich. Well done.

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