Internet Dangers: Donna Jou

Donna Jou made headlines when she disappeared after last being seen in the company of John Burgess, a man whom police believe she met on Craigslist. Donna, an honor student from Orange County, California, has been missing since June 23, 2007.

Burgess, also known as "Sinjin," was arrested for stealing DVDs in Florida, and was extradited to Los Angeles to face charges of failing to register as a sex offender. He was in court on those charges recently, and the family is outraged that he isn't behind bars in connection with Donna's disappearance.

Dr. Phil Now cameras caught up with Donna's friends and family members outside the courthouse, as they made impassioned pleas for her return. 

"We're here right now at the Los Angeles courthouse in hopes that John
Burgess will make some kind of plea arrangement," says Lisa, Donna's sister. 

Gloria Allred, attorney for the Jou family, says, "The first thing I would say to John Stephen Burgess is, 'Tell us what you know. Help this family.'"

When the videotape ends, Dr. Phil turns to Donna's father, Reza. "This is hard for you to watch and see your daughter," he sympathizes. "What is your feeling, and what is your fear, at this point?"

Reza replies, "I'm extremely devastated. I cannot function properly. I have lost some of my feelings. I don't get thirsty. I cannot sleep. Basically, I am extremely devastated, and I don't know what to do."

"Do you fear that the worst has happened?" Dr. Phil asks Nili, Donna's mother. "Do you think she's being held against her will?"

"I do," she replies. "I am terrified that one day I will find out that my daughter is gone " for four months. But I am hoping that she'll be back."

Lisa expresses her concerns. "I normally have a lot to say, but in this situation, I just walk around scratching my head saying, ‘I don't know.' I just try to be there for Nili and my dad, and try to be supportive, but I don't know what to think, at this point."

 


 

Dr. Phil addresses Gloria Allred. "[Burgess] is a person of interest. They have not declared this guy a suspect yet?" he asks.

 

"Reportedly, a prosecutor in one of the bail hearings did use the word 'suspect,' but at least he is a person of interest," Gloria replies. She reveals that a toolbox belonging to Burgess was found containing rubber gloves, a scrub brush and a rope. "That is something that is of great concern to us."

 

"Obviously, he had disguised his car. I understand they think that he painted the car?" Dr. Phil asks.

 

"Yes. After Nili spoke to him and asked for help in finding her daughter, and after the police began to investigate and began to publicize his truck and his motorcycle, then the license plate was found, and his motorcycle helmet was found and the other items."

 

Dr. Phil consults his notes. "Here are some things that we know about him: Convicted in '02 on three counts of battery, convicted in '03 for performing a lewd act on a child," he reads. He turns to Nili. "Did she meet him on Craigslist?"

 

"I'm sure she didn't know who Mr. Burgess is when she answered the ad," Nili replies.

 

Gloria adds, "She was advertising as a math tutor, helping students, helping in the way Donna always helped everyone, all of her life. This is a young woman who not only had a 4.0 average, but she babysat at battered women shelters. She helped to collect food for the poor and distribute it through her ministry, and this is person who, perhaps, was very, very trusting, but she was not dating him, as we know."


The family recently held a 20th birthday celebration for Donna as they hold out hope that she is still alive.

 

"We're going to have cake. We're waiting for her to come. We didn't want to miss this," says an upbeat Nili, standing against a backdrop of balloons and streamers.

 

As Nili curls a helium balloon string, however, she breaks down, unable to continue.

 

"We have 20 candles for her birthday and one for good luck," Gloria announces, as friends and family blow out the candles.

 

"What I wish for her is to be here. That's all I need. That's all I want," Nili says.

"She was seen getting on the back of a motorcycle, right?" Dr. Phil asks Gloria.

 

"Yes, by Nili, her mom," she replies.

 

Dr. Phil addresses Nili. "You actually saw her get on the back of the motorcycle. You then heard from her later, at a party, via text message. Do you believe that was really her at the party?"

 

"No, sir. I don't," she answers. She explains that Donna normally uses shorthand when she sends text messages, and this message contained complete words. "It was different from the rest. And she capitalized 'Mommy.' The M for Mommy. She never did that."

 

Dr. Phil wants Gloria to break down the legalities of the case. "[Burgess] has said that he has information and will share it if they'll deal with him on this other charge?" he asks.

 

"That's what he said to his attorney previously. He also told Nili that he would help. Of course, he didn't call back," she reveals. "But we say how offensive, how reprehensible, to play 'Let's make a deal' when a young woman's life is at stake."

Gloria holds up a stack of greeting cards. "We had members of her family write birthday cards, how they feel about Donna Jou to Donna," she explains. "I'm going to send one to Mr. Burgess [every day], to let him know how her family feels about her, and how much at a loss they are without her, and let him just have to think about Donna Jou every day until he opens up, and gives us the information that they deserve to have."

 

"So he's in jail for three years, and maybe a year and a half, with good behavior?" Dr. Phil inquires. "If he is manipulative, if he's greedy " I'm sorry " why not make the deal? Why not say, ‘OK, you can go half of your time, or you can do this' if it helps find where this girl is? At this point, is there no leverage with him at all?"

"Well, I think the leverage is going to be what the results of the investigation are by the Los Angeles Police Department, and by Orange County law enforcement," Gloria explains. "If, as and when they can put pieces together of the puzzle, and if they are able to refer to the prosecutor, and if he decides to file a case, then there is some leverage with him to disclose the information. We'll have to wait and see."

Dr. Phil instructs Nili to look into the camera and address Burgess directly. "Tell him now what you want to tell him to bring your daughter home," he says.

Taking a deep breath, Nili says, "Mr. Burgess, you came to my apartment and picked up my daughter. Since then, we don't know where she is. We don't know what happened to her that night. Since then, we are begging you, we are pleading with you, please, help us. Put us out of this misery and agony. We need to know what happened to our daughter. She's our life. So many people are affected. You cannot imagine how many people " overseas, here " we are affected. We miss her so much. You have a daughter. Please. You are sitting in jail. Think about it. We just need to know what happened, and where Donna is now. We want her to be home with us, with her family."

Reza adds, "I just want to beg him, once more, I love my daughter. I want her back, and I will fight until the last day of my life. I want my child back. I cannot live without her, and I will do everything in my power to bring my child back home."

 

Gloria promises to keep Dr. Phil posted on Donna's case. If anyone has information about the disappearance of Donna Jou, please go to www.DonnaJou.com, and also contact the Los Angeles Police Department. "We want to bring Donna home. She has a wonderful, loving family. No mother and no father, should have to be subjected to a nightmare like this," she says.