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Joshua Lee Burgess, 35, was sentenced to death on June 3, 2022 for the murder of his daughter Zaria Burgess, 15, in Monroe, North Carolina. After approximately three hours of deliberations, the sentence was handed down by a Union County jury following a three week trial.

Joshua Burgess and Zaria Burgess

Joshua Burgess and Zaria Burgess

On August 18, 2019, Burgess killed Zaria by slitting her throat after psychologically and sexually torturing her for 22 hours at his home in Monroe.

Burgess confessed to his crime after walking into a police station on his own free will, before Zaria's murder was made known. Burgess was calm and showed no emotion while giving specific details about the rape and murder of his daughter Zaria.

For unknown demonic reasons Burgess raped Zaria and then stabbed her in the neck. Zaria died at the crime scene. Zaria was a sophomore at Monroe High School. She was a member of the marching band and the dance team.

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In addition to one count of first degree murder, Burgess was convicted of one count of statutory rape, three counts of statutory sex offense, and one count of first degree sexual exploitation of a minor. He received an additional minimum of nearly 76 years in prison for those offenses. His lethal injection date has yet to be set.

Union County District Attorney Trey Robison said:

This was truly an 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 case was investigated by the Union County Sheriff’s Office and prosecuted by DA Trey Robison and ADA Mary Beth Usher, with the significant assistance of ADA Cristin Dunne and DA Office Investigator Ronnie Watkins.