Donna Jou's Killer to Walk Free

John Steven Burgess pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and concealment in the death of Donna Jou

By Michelle Wayland and Olsen Ebright
|  Wednesday, Dec 7, 2011  |  Updated 5:31 PM PDT
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The man who admitted to dumping the body of an SDSU student in the ocean was scheduled to be released from jail in Los Angeles on Wednesday after serving less than half of his five-year sentence.

Ted Chen

The man who admitted to dumping the body of an SDSU student in the ocean was scheduled to be released from jail in Los Angeles on Wednesday after serving less than half of his five-year sentence.

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Donna Jou's Killer to Walk Free

John Steven Burgess, 38, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and concealing the death of 19-year-old Donna Jou.

Missing Student's Family Searches for Answers

Donna Jou's family held a news conference 15 months after her disappearance, hopeful that new evidence would turn up in the case.
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The man who admitted to dumping the body of an SDSU student in the ocean was scheduled to be released from jail in Los Angeles on Wednesday after serving less than half of his five-year sentence.

John Steven Burgess, 38, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and concealing the death of 19-year-old Donna Jou. In January 2010, the registered sex offender was sentenced to five years in prison, but because of day-to-day good time credits plus his time served, he will be released after two and a half years in Men's Central Jail, said a spokesperson with the California Department of Corrections.

At a Wednesday morning news conference in downtown LA, the victim's family said the early release highlights a grossly flawed judicial system.

"Burgess was for Donna, judge, jury and executioner," said her father, Reza Jou.

"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," Reza Jou said.

"This criminal mastermind conned the system of justice and got away with murder," said Reza Jou, who noted that the family has unsuccessfully asked the District Attorney's Office to reopen the investigation into his daughter's disappearance.

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."

At the news conference, the victim’s mother, Nili Jou, wore a T-shirt with her daughter's photo on it.

"A monster is getting out," she said. "He took my daughter to his house, drugged her, gave her alcohol and caused her death. This is murder."

Donna Jou’s body was never found, but Burgess told police he dumped her body in the ocean back in 2007 after she accidently overdosed on drugs and he panicked. Burgess told prosecutors that he answered an advertisement Jou placed on craigslist.com and brought her to his Palms-area house, where there was alcohol and drugs, including marijuana, cocaine and heroin.

"I gave her some," Burgess told the court.

Burgess said when he awoke in the morning, Jou was dead.

"I just, I panicked and got scared and... I made a really bad decision. And I went down to my sailboat and I just, I gave her to the sea," he said.

"Did you put her body in the ocean?" the prosecutor asked.

"Yes, sir," Burgess responded.

Jou was an honors student at San Diego State University.

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