MONROE, N.C. - A North Carolina man is accused of strangling his 15-year-old daughter before slitting her throat during a weekend visit at his home, sheriff’s deputies said.
Joshua Lee Burgess, 32, of Monroe, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Zaria Joshalyn Burgess. Zaria was visiting her father when she was slain.
Union County Jail records show Burgess is also facing one count each of statutory rape of a person 15 years old or younger, first-degree statutory sexual offense, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor.
“The details of this murder are indescribable,” Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey told WSOC in Charlotte. “Every officer and detective involved in this case is feeling the effects of what happened to this child. There is no logical answer to explain why this man did what he is accused of doing. Our hearts and prayers are with Zaria’s mom and her family.”
Union County Sheriff’s Office officials said in a news release that Burgess walked into the agency’s lobby just before 9:30 a.m. Sunday and told a dispatcher he was there to turn himself in.
The dispatcher began searching for warrants in Burgess’ name.
“He stopped her. He said, ‘You’re not going to find my name. I just killed someone,’” Tony Underwood, chief communications officer for the Union County Sheriff’s Office, told WSOC. “At that point, the red flags started to go off.”
After Burgess gave details of the killing and told them where to find Zaria’s body, deputies went to Burgess’ home at 5102 Hampton Meadows Road, near Wesley Chapel. Inside, they found the slain teen, authorities said.
A reporter with WSOC was in the courtroom Monday for Burgess’ first court appearance, where authorities offered gruesome details of the girl’s death, including how her father reportedly killed her.
Reporter Tina Terry said there was a “collective gasp” when the details were revealed, according to the news station.
“It’s just pure evil,” Underwood said.
Cathey on Tuesday told the news station the medical examiner found that Zaria died of a “sharp force injury to the neck.”
No motive for the slaying was given. Burgess' Facebook page is filled with photos of his daughter, who he called his “mini-me.”
“I love this little angel more than anything. Nothing beats quality time with my daughter,” he wrote on a post from 2015.
Zaria’s cousin, Dytaysha Wadsworth, told WSOC the victim was a sweet girl who loved her family. She was about to start her freshman year at Monroe High School.
“She was just the type of kid that would come in a room or come in a house and say, ‘Hey everybody’ -- just wanting to make everybody smile,” Wadsworth said. “She was so young, and nobody deserves to leave this world like that, especially by someone they thought was gonna protect them and be there for them.”
Burgess is being held without bond in the Union County Jail.