A forensic DNA scientist has linked several pieces of evidence to an accused murderer who is standing trial for the beating, stabbing, and strangling of a Temple University student.
On September 2, 2017, George Stabilito had breakfast with his wife and then went to her property eight miles away to check on her yard. He looked inside the lakeside shed, into which snakes occasionally made their way. Instead of finding snakes, Stabilito found a large blue storage bin with a body inside.
The body of Jenna Burleigh, a 22-year-old Temple University Student, was stuffed inside the plastic storage bin. Her body was naked, her midsection was covered with a blanket, and her right leg was bent and contorted. Burleigh had sustained more than 143 injuries, including two stab wounds and more than 39 head injuries.
When authorities watched surveillance videotapes from a few nights before Burleigh’s body was found, they saw Joshua Hupperterz and Jenna Burleigh sitting and talking together at a bar and then leaving the bar together at around 2:00 a.m. The two were then seen walking toward Hupperterz’s apartment building.
According to prosecutors, Joshua Hupperterz met Burleigh at a bar on August 31, 2017, and they went back to his apartment to have consensual sex. They contend that the sex turned violent and Hupperterz beat Burleigh, stabbed her, smashed a cereal bowl over her head, and strangled her on the kitchen floor.
Hupperterz has since admitted to transporting Burleigh’s body to his mother’s garage and then to his grandmother’s property, but denies killing her. Instead, Hupperterz claims that his roommate, Jack Miley, intervened in the fight and strangled Burleigh. Miley has denied any role in the crime.
Huppertz was charged with murder, abuse of a corpse, and separate drug-related charges. Assistant District Attorney Jason Grenell said that the District Attorney’s Office offered Hupperterz a plea deal, but he rejected the deal. The plea deal was for Hupperterz to plead guilty to third-degree murder and be sentenced to 30 to 60 years in state prison. Since Hupperterz chose to go to trial, he faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison if he is convicted of first or second-degree murder.
At trial, the state trooper who was present at the autopsy testified that the medical examiner took nail clippings from each of Burleigh’s hands. The Philadelphia forensic scientist and DNA expert took the stand and testified that the genetic profile from the nail clippings matched the DNA of Hupperterz, and not his roommate.
The forensic DNA scientist from the Philadelphia crime lab also testified about evidence that was found at the scene of the crime. The expert matched Hupperterz’s genetic profile to a knife that was found next to the sink. The scientist told the jurors about a boot that was found in the closet of Hupperterz’s roommate, Jack Miley. Prosecutors say that Burleigh was wearing that boot on the night that she died.
The scientist testified that the genetic profile of the material found on the buckle and side of the boot was consistent with Hupperterz. He testified that the DNA was one in 12.64 duodecillion (which includes 39 zeroes) times more consistent with Huppertz than anyone else in the Caucasian population.