UNION COUNTY, N.C. – Police are continuing to investigate the graphic details behind a gruesome murder of a teenager girl whose father allegedly admitted to committing the crime. 

Authorities say that on Sunday night, a North Carolina man identified as Joshua Burgess walked into the Union County Sheriff’s Office and told a dispatcher that he was there to turn himself in.

When the dispatcher began trying to pull up information on the man, he reportedly told them that she would not find his information in the system. Instead, he informed her that he had just committed a murder and wanted to give himself up.


Joshua Burgess stands accused of murdering and sexually assaulting his teenage daughter. (Union County Jail/Facebook)


A report from WSOC-TV said that the 32-year-old man told police that he had just killed his 15-year-old daughter, Zaria Burgess, while she was visiting his Wesley Chapel home for the weekend. 

Police responded to the home on Hampton Meadows Road to investigate Burgess’ claims. When they arrived, they discovered the body of 15-year-old Zaria. Authorities say that Burgess admitted to strangling the teenage girl and then slitting her neck. 

A medical examiner confirmed that Zaria died from a “sharp force injury to the neck.” 


Burgess was booked into the Union County Jail for first degree murder and held without bond.

He appeared in court on Monday morning. When prosecutors listed the horrific details of the crime, a reporter said a collective gasp was audible inside the courtroom. 

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It’s unclear what else police recovered at the crime scene, but Burgess is facing a number of charges that suggest he may have sexually assaulted his daughter before killing her.

In addition to the murder charge, Burgess will also face one count of statutory rape of a person 15 years of age or younger, first-degree statutory sex offense, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor.

“The details of this murder are indescribable,” Sheriff Eddie Cathey said. “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.”   

Family and friends were shocked to learn of Zaria’s death.

“She was the type of kid to come in a room come or in a house and say, ‘Hey everybody’ — just wanting to make everybody smile,” her cousin, Dytaysha Wadsworth, said.


They’re still trying to understand why Burgess would lash out and take his daughter’s life.

“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,” Wadsworth said.

Burgess is due to appear back in court next month. 


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