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Joshua Lee Burgess and his daughter, Zaria Burgess

From left: Zaria Burgess and her father, Joshua Lee Burgess. | Source: Union County District Attorney’s Office

A white man in North Carolina was sentenced to death for murdering his Black teenage daughter, concluding a court case that spanned nearly three years.

Joshua Lee Burgess was not only sentenced on Friday for the 2019 grisly murder of 15-year-old Zaria Joshalyn Burgess but also for “sexually torturing” her for nearly one full day, according to the Associated Press.

“This was truly an especially heinous, atrocious, and cruel killing of an innocent child. This case was emotionally taxing for everyone involved,” the Union County District Attorney’s Office said. “We continue to grieve with and pray for Zaria’s mother.”

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In a Facebook post on Friday announcing the death sentence, the Union County Sheriff’s Office called Joshua Lee Burgess a “truly evil criminal defendant.”

It wasn’t just that Joshua Lee Burgess killed Zaria, a rising high school sophomore at the time, but it was also how he killed her that drew attention to the case.

Joshua Lee Burgess was accused of psychologically and sexually torturing Zaria for 22 hours before he strangled her and slit her throat at his home in the city of Monroe, which is located about 23 miles southeast of Charlotte. Zaria was at her father’s home for a weekend visit when he killed her.

It took a jury about three hours to find Joshua Lee Burgess of killing Zaria in a crime that he admitted to after walking into the Union County Sheriff’s Office and confessing during the summer of 2019. At the time, Joshua Lee Burgess “provided detailed information concerning his daughter’s death and where her body was located,” according to the local news outlet WBTV.

No motive was ever revealed for the brutal crimes.

The murder trial began last month with Joshua Lee Burgess facing charges that included first-degree murder, statutory rape and kidnapping.

Before it began, Joshua Lee Burgess’ lawyers requested that his confession be removed from the record out of apparent fear he would not receive a fair trial, according to the local news outlet WSOC-TV.

In addition to Joshua Lee Burgess’ death sentence, he was also given a minimum of nearly 76 years in prison. He had been remanded to the Union County jail since he confessed to the police.

It was not immediately clear at which correctional facility Joshua Lee Burgess will serve the remainder of his life behind bars.


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