Man sentenced to death for 2019 rape and murder of 15-year-old daughter

Zaria Joshalyn Burgess and Joshua Lee Burgess. [Image credits: Union County District Attorney's Office and Union County Sheriff's Office]

Monroe, North Carolina: In August 2019, we reported on Joshua Lee Burgess after he walked into the sheriff's office to turn himself in, alerting them that he had killed his daughter.


She had been visiting him for the weekend at the time.


On Friday, June 3, 2022, the Union County District Attorney's Office announced that Burgess had been sentenced to death earlier in the day by a unanimous decision of the jury after approximately three hours of deliberation.


According to Law and Crime, North Carolina law requires that a jury vote unanimously for the death penalty or the resulting sentence would be life in prison.


His trial lasted three weeks.


The District Attorney, Trey Robinson, took time to "thank the men and women of the jury who gave their time and effort in this very emotional case and helped bring closure to Zaria's family and friends."


Disclosed during the trial, was the horrific nature of the crimes that Burgess committed against his own daughter before turning himself in.


"On August 18, 2018, Burgess killed 15-year-old Zaria by slitting her throat after psychologically and sexually torturing her for 22 hours at his home off Airport Road in Monroe," the District Attorney's Office explained in the statement.


That information led to the jury convicting him on one count of first-degree murder, one count of statutory rape, three counts of statutory sex offense and one count of first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor.


In 2019, Union County Sheriff's Office chief communications officer Tony Underwood said, "This is a case where it's pure evil. He readily admitted to what transpired."


"This was truly and especially heinous, atrocious, and cruel killing of an innocent child. This case was emotionally taxing for everyone involved. We continue to grieve with and pray for Zaria's mother." the District Attorney's statement read.