Man pleads guilty in Clear Lake girl's death

May 8, 2009 4:49:44 AM PDT
A big break in the case of a Clear Lake college student, who was last seen a year and a half ago, while attending college in California.[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

The family of Donna Jou has waited for almost two years for answers about how she died. The man police suspected all along made a plea deal, even agreeing to a face-to-face meeting with the family of the Clear Lake native.

John Steven Burgess, 36, pleaded guilty in a Los Angeles courtroom to involuntary manslaughter and concealment of accidental death for his role in the death of 19-year-old Donna Jou.

Burgess told the judge he met Jou on craigslist.org, then she came to a party at a rented home in the Palms area of Los Angeles on June 23, 2007. He says he gave Jou drugs and alcohol that night.

"I woke up (the next morning) and she was gone. She was dead and I panicked and got scared," said Burgess.

Then Burgess, who is also a registered sex offender, said he took Jou's body to his sailboat.

"I gave her to the sea," said Burgess.

Jou graduated from Clear Lake High School in 2006. The honors student went on to San Diego State and dreamed of becoming a neurosurgeon.

Burgess agreed as part of his plea deal to a face-to-face meeting with the Jou family, where they said he did make an apology.

"He said that he's sorry...how sincere...I don't know," said Jou's mother, Nili Jou.

Donna's father, Reza Jou, has made dozens of trips from Clear Lake to L.A. to try and keep attention on her case.

"To me he has killed my child so he should stay behind bars for the rest of his life, not only for us but for the sake of society," said Reza.

Burgess said he has shown detectives where he placed her body in the water. So far Jou's body has not been found, but the family remains hopeful there will come a day they can bury their beloved daughter. Just like this difficult day when they at last received some answers.

"I won't give up to find her. We'll find her. We need to bring her home" said Nili Jou.

The Jou family said Burgess cried at one point in their meeting. He will be sentenced later this month and is expected to face about five years in prison under the plea agreement.

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