Friday, April 15, 2011

Predator Gets Another Year: Victory for Donna Jou's family

By Isabelle Zehnder , columnist and news person, reports on missing persons, top news, and family issues. Isabelle has worked as an investigative reporter for over six years extensively reporting on missing persons, children and teens abused in boot-camp type programs, and other pressing issues. She has a legal background, has worked as a child and family advocate, and is a Certified Family Coach. Have a story to share? email

LOS ANGELES, California -- The man who, after her disappearance, admitted to drugging and killing a San Diego State University freshman and then dumping her body into the Pacific Ocean in 2007 was not released from a Southern California prison Friday as planned and will spend at least another year in jail – a victory for Donna Jou’s family and those who support them.

On Thursday published an article detailing reasons why Donna’s family and others are outraged over the early release of 38-year-old John Steven Burgess for “good behavior” after spending only two of a five-year prison sentence in the murder of Donna Jou.

Another year in jail

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said Burgess will not be released back into society.

Instead, he will be released from state custody and turned immediately over to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.

Burgess will then begin serving his one-year sentence at the Los Angeles County Jail for concealing an accidental death.

It appears the dedication of a mother and father, coupled with the hard work of a group of dedicated individuals, have ensured that Burgess will spend at least another year in jail – another year that Donna’s family, supporters, and private investigators can continue working to uncover whether Burgess was involved in other crimes and to continue working to uncover what really happened to Donna.

Violence Expert, Strategist, and published Author Susan Murphy-Milano said, “He [Burgess] was sentenced to five years in prison through a plea deal put together by his attorney. He was scheduled to be released from prison Friday. Donna’s family and others planned a demonstration in Los Angeles Friday to show their outrage.”

Donna met Burgess through placing an ad for tutoring services on Craigslist. Donna's parents believe that's how he gained Donna's trust.

Murphy-Milano said that Donna’s father, Reza Jou, was a guest on her radio show “Time’s Up” along with the founder of, Karim Parini, to discuss the details of the case and the release of John Steven Burgess.

Safelist was created as an alternative to Craigslist after Donna Jou vanished. ‘Time’s Up’ addresses real-life unsolved and missing person’s cases featuring family members of unsolved crimes, missing persons, and partner intimate homicides,” she said.

“The hour-long March 31 show set the stage for a firestorm of blogs, media, and other shows in outrage over the pending release of John Steven Burgess,” Murphy-Milano said.

Zeus radio network, the home to Murphy-Milano's show, ignited an all out charge to do whatever was necessary to protest the release of the three-time violent sexual predator.

“Imagine Publicity, Crime Wire, Time's Up Show, The Laurie Roth Show, Here Women Talk Radio, Blogger News Network, The Cue Center, Canadian Free Press, News with Views pressed hard to keep this man behind bars,” Murphy-Milano said.

Dad says it’s good, but not enough

When News 10 spoke with Donna’s father, Reza Jou, this week, Reza said the new sentence wasn’t enough.

Reza said, “They have to investigate. They have to find out the truth and they have to punish Burgess for what he has done because they haven’t shown us any proof. The thing that he’s telling … there’s no proof one way or the other.”

According to the California Department of Correction’s website Burgess was scheduled to be released from prison March 15, 2011.

Donna’s parents, family members, and supporters are protesting in L.A. Friday, requesting the investigation into Donna’s disappearance be reopened.

News 10 reports they are calling on Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley to reopen the case with new investigators – something Cooley’s office says it can’t do unless new evidence is found.

Mom and dad don’t buy his story

John Steven Burgess, a registered sex offender, admitted to killing Donna in June 2007. He was convicted and jailed in 2009.

Burgess has his version of the story – a version Donna’s family does not buy.According to Donna’s mother, Nili Jou, police did not immediately begin searching for her daughter when she first vanished because she is an adult and could have gone voluntarily. It was when they discovered Donna had not used her cell phone or credit cards that they became concerned, she said.

Donna’s mother Nili Jou told News 10, “I believe my daughter is a victim of human trafficking and whoever is protecting this guy – sending the money – maybe has my daughter.”

Donna’s parents find it disturbing that someone has been sending Burgess $200 every month while he’s been in prison.

Murphy-Milano questions how Burgess was able to post $250,000 in cash as bond when “this man does not have 2 nickels to his name. No source of documented income. He owns no property. How is he able to post that much cash?”

In May 2009 News 10 reported that Burgess pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in Donna’s death one day after meeting with her parents to answer their questions about how she died.

Burgess told Donna’s parents that he met her through an ad she posted on Craigslist. He said she was looking for people to party with and admitted to giving her cocaine and heroin at his house.

According to Laurie Roth, Ph.D, Donna was a freshman in college and an honor student aspiring to be a neurosurgeon. Dr. Roth said Donna made what appears to be a “nightmare” mistake of advertising her tutoring services on Craigslist. Burgess responded with the fake ID of “Mr. Nice Guy” in what experts believe was a way to elicit basic trust.

Burgess’ attorney struck a plea deal and Burgess was charged with involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to five years in prison but was scheduled to be released on April 15 after serving only two years.

There is no evidence of his crime. All police have to go on is his word - the word of a convicted sex offender, intimate partner violence offender, admitted and convicted murderer.

What happened to the “three-strikes-you’re-out” law?

Burgess is a registered sex offender who spent three years in jail for failing to register as such. He has a background as an intimate partner violence offender, and is an admitted and convicted murderer.

Murphy-Milano said in her blog, “In 2002, he [Burgess] had three separate battery convictions; in 2005 he was arrested after beating up his girlfriend; and Burgess was also charged with trying to force a teenage girl into prostitution.”

On April 5 Murphy-Milano writes, “This disturbing case is not about time served, but a dangerous sexual predator who, in my opinion, willingly, like a good foot soldier in his organization, falls on the sword for a much larger and dangerous international crime ring, human trafficking, child pornography, and prostitution.”

More on this story: Outrage over man spending only 2 years in prison for killing 19-yr-old Donna Jou.

Susan Murphy Milano is with the Institute for Relational Harm Reduction and Public Pathology Education. She is an expert on intimate partner violence and homicide crimes. For more information visit She is also in partnership with Pamela Chapman and iAscend Programs.

Susan is the author of "Time's Up A Guide on How to Leave and Survive Abusive and Stalking Relationships," available for purchase at the Institute, and wherever books are sold. Susan is the host of The Susan Murphy Milano Show, "Time's Up!" on Here Women Talk and is a regular contributor to the nationally syndicated The Roth Show with Dr Laurie Roth. Susan is a survivor- the daughter of a police officer family intimate partner homicide by her father who murdered her mother before committing suicide

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