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Assault victim completes her emotional testimony

Original post made on May 11, 2009

At times weeping into the arms of a court support person, "Jane Doe," the 18-year-old former Gunn High School student who was allegedly kidnapped, beaten and sexually assaulted by Todd David Burpee, relayed a chilling account of her experience to jurors in San Jose Superior Court Monday. ==B Related stories:==
■ [Web Link 2006 Paly grad arrested for abduction of Gunn student]
■ [Web Link Burpee admits abduction/assault, police report]

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, May 11, 2009, 9:08 PM

Comments (27)

Posted by Carlos
a resident of Green Acres
on May 11, 2009 at 2:05 pm

For such a crystal clear case, I hope our legal system works as per the spirit and letter of the law, and gets this kind of a threat to society locked up forever.

Posted by unbelievable
a resident of Los Altos
on May 11, 2009 at 2:10 pm

I used to work with Todd Burpee a few years back and it's really scary to think that a person you see almost everyday and hang out with would do something like this! He was always very quiet and reserved and seemed friendly. I don't understand what possesses a person to do such a terrible thing, but obviously this man is sick in his head and needs A LOT of sense knocked into him. I pray that girl recovers and isn't scared to walk around in public.. And honestly people, if you're THAT mad at the world, bang your own damn head against the concrete.. don't hurt innocent people who are just trying to live their lives. People are so selfish and stupid.. they think it's OK to do things like this. Well, it's not ok.. and you're either going to burn in hell or in jail..

Posted by Shocked
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 11, 2009 at 4:44 pm

I just don't get how someone does something as messed up as this. I remember last year when this happened and am glad that I'm around to see the trial. I hope this sick man is locked away for a long time and gets the crap kicked out of him so he knows what it' like.
Poor girl.. I hope she's okay

Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 11, 2009 at 5:47 pm

How many lives has this man messed up?

Certainly, he grievously hurt that poor girl, but that is the obvious.

In fact, her whole family, probably extended family, is being put through the wringer with her. I am sure they are glad they still have her, but lives have been put on hold, or re-routed, due to this crime and its concequences.

What about Todd Burpee's family? This cannot be easy on them at all. Torn between loving him and condeming him, performing constant self examinations looking for clues they missed about Todd, or contributions they may have made to his personality disorder or whatever is wrong with him, they must be going through a wringer too.

What about the friends, of both Todd and his victim, and the families, how do they react to all this? Horrified, to be sure. But can they even deal with trying to support someone through such horrific events? It takes some constitution and commitment, and it is not easy.

It is really sad that one horrible act can affect so many people adversely.

Posted by Campanile alumna
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 11, 2009 at 10:11 pm

Please do reconsider whether you believe it's in the public interest to recount both the assault and the trial blow-by-blow. The young woman in question clearly is a private individual and likely would not want every intimate detail to be published. I am not seeing a compelling, overruling reason the public needs to know. If a story has not been through both an editor and a spell-checker, it's probably not ready to be published. Thoughtfulness and prudence take precedence over expedience.

Posted by student
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 12, 2009 at 12:16 am

i agree with campanile... i cannot believe how vulgar this commentary is. its really unnecessary, inconsiderate, and rude to have in an article especially for a crime of this nature. the poor girl has already gone through enough... why let everyone else know about it? completely uncalled for.... its to no ones benefit to know this information.

Posted by Pat
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 12, 2009 at 4:01 am

I'm amazed at how graphic this story is!!!! The victim has suffered enough. Please spare her (and us) the details. Last week, the Weekly/PA Online was printing every tragic detail in the death of a Gunn student, now this! Is the Weekly trying to outdo the National ENQUIRER!

Posted by RJ
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 12, 2009 at 9:38 am

In your first sentence, it's not "San Jose Superior Court," it's Santa Clara County Superior Court. Yeah, that's what they call the courts in San Jose. When I see something that incorrect at the beginning of the story, I wonder what else is wrong.

Posted by Ivy
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 12, 2009 at 10:39 am

Sue Dremann, you should be ashamed of the way you write this article.
Palo Alto Online News should be told that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
The Gunn/Paly kids/family have been too deepy hurt by the irresponsible way this newspaper covers the recent unfortunate events happened to their members.

Posted by been there too...
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2009 at 10:53 am

Having been a victim of an act of violence from strangers in 1980... I know from experience how painful and scaring it can be... and to have to keep repeating the details in perfect order, never varying words descriptions nor timing... so a court room of people can understand all that happened, keeps the person in the trauma verses the healing.

I hope in time we figure out better ways to focus on supporting the injured party and protection them, verses making the whole process be about repeating the harm of the event and accentuating what the perpetrator did.

This lovely daring young lady survived! She did her best under really stressful circumstances to live through a horrible event.

I hope we can all take a stand for her having a productive life as strongly as we would push her to reveal all the gory details in order to stop someone from doing it to others.

I hope in the future we find ways to pay more attention to what the victim needs to be well, instead of simply making them suffer over and over again.

Please help support her in learning how to heal from this and find ways of getting the support she needs, so she can learn again to trust trustworthy people.

Posted by Jennifer
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 12, 2009 at 11:55 am

Were the 12th and 13th paragraphs (beginning with "After the third stop, he ...") necessary to the understanding of this story, or could they have been phrased in a way that was not quite as graphic? Does the Weekly have editors anymore?

Posted by SM
a resident of another community
on May 12, 2009 at 12:00 pm

I understand the knee-jerk objection to the graphic nature of this article and understand how it must make it difficult for people close to this trial to move on but I don't think we should just throw a tarp over the ugliness of this tragedy and hide it from the rest of the country. People should know what kind of monstrous crime this was. If society is mature enough to occasionally produce such an animal society should be mature enough to face the details of that animal's crime and take necessary action. If people weren't so naive about the potential for evil, and I hate to use that religiously charged word, in an apparently good person we might have a stricter more effective system of deterrence so that the potential is never realized.

These are important events, signs and symptoms of a disease, and should be dealt with in a way that exposes our collective consciousness to it's markers.

America is too damn soft on criminal and American society is too damn soft in general. Read these details. Know these monsters are out there and be ever vigilant. Arm your children with the knowledge of what true predators they may, God forbid, come into contact with.

Posted by Steve
a resident of another community
on May 12, 2009 at 12:29 pm

I believe that the graphic courtroom details don't need to follow the victim into the local newspapers. I don't recall the last time that such information from a trial made it into a community paper. I believe that this article is surprisingly insensitive to the victim.

Posted by nomo
a resident of Midtown
on May 12, 2009 at 2:11 pm

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]

Posted by WS
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 12, 2009 at 2:24 pm

I'm really upset you've printed too much detail. Being a sexual assault victim carries a negative social stigma in Korean culture and this brave girl has been through enough. Shame on you Palo Alto Weekly, what is your point in being so graphic? Edit this article before the kids get out of school please.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on May 12, 2009 at 2:26 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

I believe the judge was deficient in allowing the questioning to go beyond events already in evidence that prove the elements of the crime. I had thought this type of victim harassment was illegal - it certainly is unethical.

Posted by bruce
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 12, 2009 at 11:49 pm

This story breaks my heart and at the same time make me frustrated and angry at this criminal and our legal system. This is a very serious offense only slightly surpassed by actual murder and this victim should not have to go through a ridiculous ordeal. There is the possibility of permanent injury and impairment and I hope this criminal gets the absolute maximum sentence. Whatever that is, I'm sure it is not enough.

Posted by bruce
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 13, 2009 at 12:00 am

Reading through the comments, I'm sure everyone means well, I know I do, but I just get some reactions to some of them. I don't think you beat sense in to anyone. Burpee is sick and probably there is no way to reliably fix him. I cannot imagine being mad enough at my worst enemy to pound someone's face into the concrete. Someone said he hoped the girl will be OK, I'm with the best of intentions. I don't know if anyone recovers from something like this, and how else can we understand it but to hear the sad horrible details recounted, as well as commments from people who claimed how Burpee seemed quiet and peaceful.

All of us in Palo Alto should really think about the potential for violent crime in our peaceful city. There must be something we can do about this, some way to change our society for the better. It's unpopular to say but somehow we seem to make criminals like this with a high frequency. Is it really such a mystery of how to stop it or do we just refuse to do the job?

Posted by Lou Moffett
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 13, 2009 at 1:07 am

The victim's identity is being protected, and yet your report describes her as "slender" and with "black" hair, two details that add nothing to the report and compromise her anonymity.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on May 13, 2009 at 7:40 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Since there is no question of the assailant's identification and the physical evidence, the questioning of the victim was not necessary to prove the crime.

Posted by umm what?
a resident of Downtown North
on May 13, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Yes, the jury can just intuit what happened to the victim. Or maybe they should just take the prosecutor's word for it.

Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on May 13, 2009 at 6:41 pm

Isn't her testimony essential for the jury to find this monster guilty? My heart goes out to this young woman. Let's hope the criminal who harmed her will be put away for life.

As for her identification, slender with black hair might apply to thousands of girls in Palo Alto. I thought the article was sensitively written.

Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on May 13, 2009 at 9:22 pm

I agree with Walter, the questioning of the victim is way over the top, but it's to be expected given the corruption in our legal system - It's all about winning, not about truth or justice.

The victim didn't identify the perp in the courtroom, and as a minor at the time of the crime, she never should have been asked.

Herein lies (no pun intended) the problem, and how Burpee may well walk.

If this comes down to Burpee's confession to the PAPD, well, there's a real problem there, especially for sex crimes. Case in point Jorge Hernandez

Web Link

Add to that all the other "issues" within the PAPD in recent years.

"If the glove don't fit, you must acquit"......

Get ready for "Simpson" justice, but in this case, the PAPD are just as guilty as the defense lawyer.

Posted by nazis?
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on May 14, 2009 at 12:54 pm

sure lotsa nazis on this forum.look at your soldier child rapers! its in ''news'' today! your soldiers rape children!

Posted by fireman
a resident of another community
on May 14, 2009 at 4:12 pm

Been there too. Sorry to hear that. Hope thinks get better. Good luck and health.

Just one more sad story... FOR BOTH SIDES...

Posted by just thinkin'
a resident of Midtown
on May 14, 2009 at 6:37 pm

Maybe the jury will just believe the Burpee confession AND apology note.

Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on May 14, 2009 at 8:32 pm

Seen the latest Weekly article on Burpee?

Web Link

This is one case where I pray I'm proven wrong, but so far it looks like the defense is going by the playbook I described earlier.

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