• 'Her spirit is going to live on': Loved ones to honor teen reportedly killed by father

    By: Tina Terry

    Updated:

    UNION COUNTY, N.C. - Loved ones will come together Sunday to honor the life of a Union County girl who died reportedly at the hands of her own father. 

    Family members said they will be having funeral services for 15-year-old Zaria Burgess Sunday. 

    Deputies in Union County are trying to make sense of the bizarre crime.

    Detectives told Channel 9 that Joshua Burgess walked up to dispatchers around 9:30 a.m. last Sunday and told them he was there to turn himself in because he had just killed his daughter Zaria Burgess inside his Wesley Chapel home.

    (Joshua Burgess)

    When a dispatcher tried to look him up in the system, deputies said Burgess told her she wouldn't find his name, and that he was there because he had just killed someone who was visiting him at his home for the weekend.

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    Burgess, 32, was booked into the Union County Jail on a first-degree murder charge and held without bond.

    Channel 9 was at the scene outside Burgess' house on Hampton Meadows Road moments after investigators found the girl's body inside.

    Channel 9 reporter Tina Terry was in court last Monday morning for Burgess' first appearance and said the there was a collective gasp inside the courtroom when officials detailed what Burgess allegedly did to his daughter.

    They said Joshua strangled Zaria and then slit her throat, though they did not elaborate on what led up to the horrific crime.

    Last Tuesday, Sheriff Eddie Cathey released new disturbing details about the moments leading up to Zaria's death.

    According to the medical examiner, the teen died from a "sharp force injury to the neck." 

    Zaria Burgess
    Zaria Burgess
    (Zaria Burgess)

    In addition to his murder charge, Burgess is facing 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," 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.”   

    Relatives said Zaria was a sweet teen who loved her family.

    "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.

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    Family members are trying to understand what would cause her own father to take her 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 was read his rights and was assigned a court-appointed attorney.

    He will make his next court appearance in September.

    This is an ongoing investigation. Check back with wsoctv.com for more information. 

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