A man who admitted plying a college student from Orange County with drugs and dumping her body in the ocean after she overdosed in June 2007 was scheduled to be released today after serving roughly half of a five-year prison sentence.
John Steven "Sinjin" Burgess, 39, pleaded guilty on May 6, 2009, to involuntary manslaughter and a misdemeanor count of concealment of an accidental death, admitting he gave drugs to 19-year-old Donna Jou of Rancho Santa Margarita, an aspiring neurosurgeon, after meeting her through an advertisement she placed on Craigslist.com. Her family said she had advertised as a math tutor.
When he entered his plea, Burgess said he brought Jou to his Palms-area house, where there was alcohol and drugs, including marijuana, cocaine and heroin.
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 at the May 6 hearing 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, Reza and Nili Jou, 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 and have continued pushing the District Attorney's Office to reopen the investigation.
The Jous plan to hold a news conference this morning in front of the Criminal Courts Building to discuss Burgess' release from the Men's Central Jail. They said they hoped to be joined at the event by people who cry out for justice, seek "the real truth concerning the disappearance of our beloved daughter, and show support in order to help keep the hope alive and bring Donna home."
In August, Gary Hearnsberger, head of the District Attorney's Office Major Crimes Division, wrote Reza Jou a five-page letter backing the conclusions of the investigation conducted by police and prosecutors and denying Jou'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 Donna 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 in the letter that it was virtually unprecedented for a defendant to meet privately with a victim's family to answer their questions.
—City News Service