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Temple remembers Jenna Burleigh at vigil

Joshua Hupperterz, 29, a former Temple student, has been charged with murder, abuse of corpse and related offenses in the death of the 22-year-old student.

Mourners at a vigil for slain 22-year-old Temple University student Jenna Burleigh at the school’s Founder’s Garden.
Mourners at a vigil for slain 22-year-old Temple University student Jenna Burleigh at the school’s Founder’s Garden.Read moreELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

About 200 students gathered Thursday afternoon in a leafy corner of the Temple University campus to mourn 22-year-old transfer student Jenna Burleigh, slain last week.

"She wanted to make a difference and she was just beginning," the Rev. Shaun Mahoney of Temple's Newman Center told the crowd at Founder's Garden, near 13th Street and Polett Walk.

Temple president Richard Englert urged students to "please, please lean on each other, talk to each other," to get through the pain. He also urged those gathered to help others, as he understood that Burleigh had done many times.

"I have heard that Jenna Burleigh was a remarkable woman with a strong commitment to helping others, especially the most vulnerable of society," said Englert. He asked people to contribute to a charity that Burleigh's family set up, Jenna's Blessing Bags for the Homeless, which will provide backpacks to the homeless. Contributions can be made through the Univest Foundation in Souderton.

Breea Gillette, 20, president of the Temple University Progressive NAACP, which organized the vigil with the Temple student government, said afterward that she did not know Burleigh but felt the need to do something because of Burleigh's outspoken progressive views. "She was all about giving to the less fortunate," said Gillette.

A former Temple student, Joshua Hupperterz, 29, was arrested last weekend and charged with murder, abuse of corpse, possession of an instrument of crime and tampering with evidence in Burleigh's killing. His attorney, David Nenner, said Thursday that Hupperterz plans to fight the charges.

Burleigh allegedly met Hupperterz for the first time at Pub Webb, a bar at 1527 Cecil B. Moore Ave. They were captured on a surveillance camera leaving together about 2 a.m. Aug. 31. He then killed her in his apartment on 16th Street near Cecil B. Moore, police said.

Afterward, Hupperterz allegedly placed her remains in a container that was then taken to his mother's home in Jenkintown. He later put the container into a Lyft car and rode more than 100 miles to his grandmother's house in Wayne County, in northeastern Pennsylvania, a police source has said.

Burleigh's body was found Saturday in a shed at the grandmother's home in Hawley. The Wayne County coroner ruled Sunday that Burleigh died from blunt trauma and strangulation.

"Jenna was murdered," the Rev. Renee McKenzie of North Philadelphia's Church of the Advocate said at Thursday's vigil.

"Don't let evil win," she said, urging students to live their lives to the fullest and to turn pain into action.

Another speaker, Shawn Aleong, 29, a student government member, urged mourners to join hands. "Jenna is not gone, but she is an angel watching down on all of us," he said.

One woman, Eleni, who did not want her last name published, shed tears as she clasped hands with others. The 21-year-old Temple senior said afterward that she did not know Burleigh, but knew Hupperterz.

Eleni, who said she had tended bar at Pub Webb, said Hupperterz "would always come in." He introduced himself as "Cali," claiming he lived in California and had a brother who was shot in Compton.

"There was something so weird about him," she said. "He was always saying he had so much money and he would send me pictures" of cash and bundles of marijuana, she said.

Public records show no past addresses in California for Hupperterz or his parents. Hupperterz lived for several years in Jenkintown, at his mother's previous home on Shoemaker Avenue, starting in his early teens, neighbors said.

One neighbor, who did not want to give his name, said Hupperterz was prone to lying. Hupperterz claimed he played football at West Chester University. University records indicate Hupperterz never attended.

Hupperterz's father, Octavio Celso Hupperterz, was fatally shot in January 1993. The family at the time lived in Germantown. A Mexican immigrant, the father, 32, was found dead in a storage lot in Springfield, Montgomery County, wrapped in a trash bag with his hands tied, shot in the back of the head. No one has been arrested and the case remains open, according to a spokeswoman for the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office. The father, who managed a restaurant, had survived a previous shooting in 1989.

Burleigh, a 2013 graduate of Souderton Area High School, transferred to Temple this semester as a junior majoring in film and media studies. She lived at her family's home in Harleysville.

A viewing will be held from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Friday at St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church, 1601 Derstine Rd., Hatfield, followed by a Funeral Mass at 11 a.m. at the church.

Staff writer Chris Palmer contributed to this article.