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Truck is found in hunt for O.C. teen

July 28, 2007|Seema Mehta | Times Staff Writer

Florida police Friday found the truck belonging to a convicted sex offender who is the prime suspect in the disappearance of a 19-year-old Orange County woman.

An informant tipped off police to the Jacksonville-area location of the 1998 Ford Ranger after media coverage of the arrest of John Steven Burgess earlier this week, said Jim Amormino, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

Police arrested Burgess on cocaine possession charges Tuesday and learned through a warrant search that the 35-year-old was wanted for questioning in the disappearance of Donna Jou of Rancho Santa Margarita.

"Forensic personnel are going through that truck with a fine-tooth comb in an attempt to locate any type of evidence which may lead us to [Jou's] whereabouts or what might have happened to her," Amormino said.

Jou and Burgess apparently met on Craigslist.com. She was last seen June 23, when Burgess allegedly picked her up for a date at her mother's Rancho Santa Margarita home and took her to a party at his rented West Los Angeles home, authorities said.

Jou's mother received a text message the next day from Jou's cellphone, saying that the battery was dying but that she would be home soon. Authorities suspect the message wasn't sent by Jou.

On July 8, the license plate of a pickup truck and a motorcycle helmet belonging to Burgess were found -- along with rope, rubber gloves and a scrubbing brush -- near railroad tracks about 1 1/2 miles from his house.

Burgess, who goes by the alias Sinjin Stevens and was convicted of three counts of battery in 2002 and of performing a lewd act on a child the next year, vanished shortly after the party.

He is being held on $1-million bond, and authorities hope to extradite him to California in two weeks, Amormino said.

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seema.mehta@latimes.com

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