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Donna Jou's parents get answers about her death

John Steven Burgess, who has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, says he 'gave her to the sea.'

May 08, 2009|Paloma Esquivel

It was nearly two years ago that 19-year-old Donna Jou left home with a man she met on the Internet and then disappeared.

For almost two years, her parents believed that John Steven Burgess knew what had happened to their daughter but refused to tell them.

On Thursday, Jou's parents finally got answers to questions that have haunted them.

Burgess, a convicted sex offender, had pleaded guilty earlier this week to involuntary manslaughter and to concealing Jou's body. He agreed to meet with Jou's parents at Los Angeles Police Department headquarters.

They had little choice but to accept the story he told them about the night she died.

"I have so many whys unanswered," Nili Jou, the missing woman's mother, said as she emerged from the meeting.

Burgess, who recently completed a term for failing to register as a sex offender, has said Jou died after he gave her cocaine, heroin and alcohol at a party at his home in Palms. When he awoke the next morning, Burgess said, she was dead. He said he panicked and used his sailboat to dump her body in the ocean.

His plea bargain calls for five years in state prison; he is to be sentenced May 18.

Authorities, who have declined to specify where Donna Jou's body was dumped, said they have searched the area but found nothing.

For two years, Nili Jou held out hope that her daughter was alive.

On Thursday, she said, Burgess told her, "Don't wait anymore. I gave her to the sea."

According to the parents, Burgess told them he found their daughter dead in a chair the morning after the party. He checked her pulse and when he didn't find one, he panicked. They asked if he administered CPR. He told them he knew she was dead.

Burgess told them he put their daughter's body in the back of his truck and drove to her home to return her to her mother. Then he changed his mind. He covered her body with a blanket, put it in a bag and drove to the ocean.

Nili Jou opened her album and showed Burgess photos of her daughter -- Donna as a baby, Donna in a feathered hat on Thanksgiving, Donna playing in the park and blowing out a single candle on a cupcake. "He wanted to see more," Nili Jou said.

They spent nearly two hours with the man responsible for their daughter's death but left with little clarity. They said they still don't know if he is telling the truth.

"It's his word," said Donna's father, Reza Jou. "He said that he's sorry. How sincere? I don't know."

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paloma.esquivel@latimes.com

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