Donna Haghighat Jou

Jou, circa 2007; John Steven Burgess

  • Missing Since 06/24/2007
  • Missing From Rancho Santa Margarita, California
  • Classification Endangered Missing
  • Date of Birth 10/14/1987 (30)
  • Height and Weight 5'3, 110 pounds
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description Blue jeans, a gray or white tank top, a black hooded jacket with a front zipper, plaid or checkered multicolored canvas Vans shoes, silver hoop earrings, white plastic thumb ring with a picture of the musician Ozzy Osbourne, and a silver-colored chain with a diamond horseshoe. Carrying a blue Jansport backpack.
  • Distinguishing Characteristics Asian female. Brown hair, brown eyes. Jou is of Iranian descent. Her ears are double-pieced. She had a tumor removed from her left breast several years before her disappearance, leaving a scar around the nipple. Her nickname is Mamoush.

Details of Disappearance

Jou was left mother's Rancho Santa Margarita, California apartment at 5:30 p.m. on June 23, 2007. She was in the company of John Steven Burgess, also known as Sinjin Stevens, whom she met on the internet. That day was the first time they had met in person, although they had previously exchanged emails and telephone calls. A photograph of Burgess is posted with this case summary. They left together on Burgess's black 1981 Yamaha motorcycle with license plates numbered 14X1224, and went to a party at his rented home in the 3600 block of Faris Drive in West Los Angeles, California. Jou called a male friend while she at the party. She stated she had locked herself in the bathroom because Burgess was "freaking her out" and she wanted to avoid him.

On the evening of June 24, Jou's mother received two cellular phone text message from Jou's phone. The first read "Goodnight Momy. Love you" and the second read "battery dead. in san diego and be home later. love you Momy." Jou never returned home and has never been heard from again. Her family believes she did not send these text messages herself. Jou normally wrote "u" for "you" in text messages, and she didn't use the term "Mommy."

Jou's family reported her missing on June 26, after she failed to show up for work and school. She was a pre-med student at San Diego State University in 2007. She lived in the college's dormitories during the school year. She was living with her mother for the summer, attending classes at Santiago Canyon Community College, and working at a <i>Payless</i> shoe store. She maintained a high grade point average and dreamed of becoming a neurosurgeon. She normally kept in close touch with her family and it is extremely uncharacteristic of her to leave without warning. There has been no activity on her cellular phone, credit cards or bank accounts since her disappearance. Jou's family describes her as academically brilliant but not streetwise, and very naive and trusting. She graduated from Clear Lake High School in Clear Lake, Texas in 2006.

Burgess is a convicted sex offender. He was not on the sex offender registry, as was required by law, at the time of Jou's disappearance. In July 2007, on the same day he was named a person of interest in Jou's case, he fled to Jacksonville, Florida, where he was arrested on cocaine possession charges. After pleading guilty, he was sentenced to time served and extadited back to California, where he posted bail, was released, and returned to Florida. Burgess was then rearrested in Jacksonville for shoplifting and possession of fake identification giving his name as Logan Anderson. He was extradited to California a second time, convicted of failing to register as a sex offender and sentenced to three years in prison. He has refused to cooperate with authorities in Jou's case. Through his attorney, he offered to make a statement about Jou's disappearance is given immunity from prosecution on the charge of failing to register, but prosecutors declined Burgess's offer.

Authorities quickly concluded Jou had been the victim of a homicide, but for nearly two years they had insufficient evidence to bring charges in her case. In March 2009, 21 months after Jou went missing, Burgess was charged with involuntary manslaughter in her case. Investigators stated she died of an accidental drug overdose at a party the night she vanished, and that Burgess had supplied her with cocaine and heroin. He was also charged with additional charges of misdemeanor concealment of an accidental death and sale or transportation of heroin and cocaine in connection with the alleged incident.

Burgess confessed when the police presented him with their evidence. He told them he rented a boat and dumped Jou's body far off the southern California shore a day or two after her death. In May 2009, Burgess pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and concealment of an accidental death. He also apologized to the Jou family for the pain he had caused them. In exchange for his guilty plea, the drug charges were dropped. Burgess was sentenced to five years in prison, but released in December 2011, after serving only half his time. He violated parole and was returned to prison, but was released a second time in July 2014.

Jou's body has never been located, but foul play is suspected in her case due to the circumstances involved.

Updated 10 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated November 16, 2014; details of disappearance updated.