A Rancho Santa Margarita woman will be the subject of the first stop in a six-day caravan to bring awareness of missing children and adults.
The North Carolina-based CUE Center for Missing Persons will be in front of the Los Angeles County Courthouse today, 10 a.m., with family members of Donna Jou, a 19-year-old San Diego State student who went missing in 2007 and who has never been found.
The press stop is meant to bring Jou's case to light. Anyone with information about Jou, her disappearance, or anything that might be related to her story should call LAPD detective Steve Eguchi at 213-486-6879 or use the link at DonnaJou.com to provide information to her family.
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John Steven "Sinjin" Burgess pleaded guilty on May 6, 2009, to involuntary manslaughter and concealment of an accidental death. He claimed that Jou died from an overdose of drugs and alcohol and that he put her body in the Pacific Ocean.
Jou was last seen on June 23, 2007, leaving Rancho Santa Margarita with Burgess, who she had met through Craigslist. Her family said Donna Jou had advertised as a math tutor.
When he entered his plea, Burgess said he took Jou to his house in the Palms area of Los Angeles, where there was alcohol and drugs, including marijuana, cocaine and heroin.
"I gave her some," he said at the May 2009 hearing as the victim's family sat two rows behind him in court.
Burgess—who pleaded no contest in October 2007 to failing to register as a sex offender and was sentenced to three years in prison—said he awoke in the morning and "she was gone ... she was dead."
He said in May 2009 that he panicked, got scared and "made a really bad decision. He said he went to his sailboat and "gave her to the sea."
Despite an extensive search, her body has never been found.
Before he was sentenced, Burgess met with Jou's parents—father Reza and mother Nili—to describe for them what happened to their daughter, a SDSU honors student. But they have remained unconvinced that Burgess told the full story about their daughter's death.
Burgess was released from prison in December, 2011. However, he was back behind bars earlier this year after violation of his probation.
This is the ninth year of the Missing Persons tour, and it will include stops in Oregon and Washington before concluding as volunteers attend pre-planned rally stops hosted by various officials, families and friends. The public is invited to attend.
CUE will be distributing a trail of press kits, t-shirts, and information throughout the path of the tour to bring attention to the unidentified, missing persons and unsolved homicide cases that have gone cold.
“After so many years, these cases fade from the public’s radar, but for the families and friends of a missing person, the nightmare continues—every minute of every day their loved one is absent,” said CUE founder Monica Caison, who is leading the caravan of volunteers. “We are traveling across the country to make sure that no case fades from memory. The annual tour campaign plays as a reminder of just a handful of cases nationally that are in need of a resolution.
"They need our help and the community’s help to bring them home."
Scheduled to end on Sept. 26, the tour is slated to promote 60 unsolved missing persons, four unidentified persons and three unsolved homicide cases.
“Each year as we begin in preparation for the tour, we are reminded of the overwhelming numbers of unsolved cases from across the country," Caison said. "Silently you see all of the requests that flood in, obviously we can only take a certain amount each year.
“The cases we feature are a small number compared to the NCIC Statistics—between 700,000 to 850,000 cases reported annually on a national level—but I’m confident we will make a difference in those we represent."