North Carolina man Joshua Burgess was on Friday sentenced to death for raping, torturing, and killing his 15-year-old daughter in 2019, Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey announced.
Prior to killing his daughter, the Union County District Attorney’s Office also said Burgess “psychologically and sexually” tortured her for 22 hours, The Washington Post reported. In the aftermath of the incident, Burgess went to the sheriff’s office to confess to the murder and turn himself in. He also told deputies where he left her body.
“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,” the statement said, adding that Burgess also “received an additional minimum of nearly 76 years in prison for those offenses.”
During his confession, Burgess revealed multiple motives behind killing his daughter. But Union County Sheriff’s Office detectives said the convicted man may have been mainly driven by lust and control, PEOPLE reported.
“The defendant in this case, Joshua Burgess, is the essence of evil and stole Zaria from her friends, family, and local community,” Sheriff Eddie Cathey said. “While we know Zaria is forever gone to us, we hope that today’s verdict helps to bring some closure to Zaria’s family and friends and we will continue to keep them in our prayers each days.”
Zaria was a high school sophomore and a member of her school’s marching band and dance team, per WSOC-TV. In the wake of her murder, Zaria’s cousin, Dytaysha Wadsworth, said the deceased victim “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,” Wadsworth added.