A Rancho Santa Margarita family and their supporters are protesting outside the Criminal Justice Building in Los Angeles this morning over today's scheduled release of an inmate who only served half his five-year sentence for dumping the body of a 19-year-old college honors student into the Pacific Ocean. Convicted sex offender John Steven "Sinjin" Burgess, 41, admitted to giving Donna Jou heroin, cocaine and alcohol in his LA apartment in 2007 and, after finding the San Diego State student and aspiring neurosurgeon dead the next morning, disposing of her body, which was never found. Her family never bought his story.
Burgess was sentenced to five years behind bars after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter and concealment of an accidental death in 2009. He is to be cut loose today from the Men's Central Jail due to overcrowding.
The Jou family wants the case reopened and Burgess fully prosecuted. They've kept supporters up on their cause through a website, www.donnajou.com. Today's rally is called "a cry for justice."
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Previously convicted of a sex offense, Burgess met Jou through a craigslist.com advertisement she placed for a math tutor. The last time the Jous saw their daughter was on June 23, 2007, when she climbed onto the back of Burgess' motorcycle bound for a party he was hosting in LA. When Jou failed to return, the cops were called.
By then, Burgess had fled the state, having painted his pickup and stole money from roommates for a trip to Florida. He was arrested a couple times there, for cocaine possession and trying to steal DVDs from a Blockbuster. It was then discovered LA had a warrant out for Burgess failing to register as a sex offender. He was extradited back to California in 2007.
The grand jury in LA County indicted Burgess for Jou's disappearance in May 2009. This produced his first explanation of what happened to her, saying he found her lifeless body in a chair in his apartment the morning after partying and drugging with her. Investigators have told the Jou family that emails between Jou and Burgess show she willingly left for a party with him and a witness claimed she willingly consumed drugs at Burgess' place.
The defendant claimed he panicked and "made a really bad decision" to dump the teen's body, which was never found despite an extensive search. Before Burgess was sentenced, he sat down with Jou's family and recounted his version of what he says happened to her. The family does not believe him--or, at least, thinks he's withholding key details--which is fueling the demonstration in LA today.