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Union County man given death penalty for brutal murder of his daughter

A jury sentenced Joshua Lee Burgess to death after murdering his 15-year-old daughter.
A jury sentenced Joshua Lee Burgess, 35, to death after he killed his daughter.
A jury sentenced Joshua Lee Burgess, 35, to death after he killed his daughter.(Union County District Attorney's Office)
Published: Jun. 3, 2022 at 5:16 PM EDT
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MONROE, N.C. (WBTV) - A Union County jury sentenced a man to death for the brutal murder of his daughter on Friday.

Joshua Lee Burgess, 35, murdered his 15-year-old daughter, Zaria, on Aug. 18, 2019, after torturing her for 22 hours at his home near Airport Road in Monroe.

Burgess slit her throat after psychologically and sexually abusing her, according to the Union County District Attorney’s Office.

Joshua Lee Burgess, 35, was sentenced to death today for the murder of his daughter Zaria. After approximately three...

Posted by Union County District Attorney's Office on Friday, June 3, 2022

He was convicted of one count of first-degree murder, one count of statutory rape, three counts of statutory sex offense, and one count of first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor.

“The details of this murder are indescribable,” Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey said in a 2019 WBTV story. “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 [the victim’s] mom and her family.”

WBTV also reported in 2019 that Burgess turned himself into the sheriff’s office and admitted to killing his daughter.

The case was investigated by the Union County Sheriff’s Office and prosecuted by District Attorney Trey Robison and Assistant District Attorney Mary Beth Usher, with the significant assistance of ADA Cristin Dunne and DA Office Investigator Ronnie Watkins.

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