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Burpee gets 43 years to life for assault, kidnap of Gunn student

Original post made on Sep 11, 2009

Todd David Burpee, 22, received a 43 years-to-life sentence today for the kidnapping, sexual assault and beating/strangulation of a Gunn High School student in 2007. Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Griffin Bonini called the crime "exceptionally violent."

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, September 11, 2009, 12:43 PM

Comments (50)

Posted by Justice Served
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2009 at 1:04 pm

Wow, thank you Prosecutor Leonard and Judge Bonini. We will be safe from him now. A person capable of such violence will always have the mean streak inside him and will strike again. Instead, he will be striked.

Posted by Happy Mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 11, 2009 at 1:10 pm

I am SO happy to hear that. Thank you Prosecutor Leonard and Judge Bonini!!!

Posted by remember
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 11, 2009 at 1:15 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by anne
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 11, 2009 at 1:24 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 11, 2009 at 1:34 pm

This is what I would call a marginally too lenient sentence. What are the indications that this "person" should not get life in prison when he commits a crime from which a completely innocent and productive member of our country and community will never recover?

This is an outrage hidden only because the punk will be in prison for so long. There will come a point at which he will come up for release - what then?

I would really like to understand that thinking behind this sentence ... can anyone explain this? It seems to send the message that we will spend much more time energy and emotion thinking about how to protect criminal's rights than how to find, judge, convict, and sentence someone like this for the protection of the community and to send a clear messsage to anyone out there that is heading down the same path.

Posted by It's Pat
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2009 at 1:57 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 11, 2009 at 1:58 pm

I wonder if you asked teachers about their students, and which ones they believe might be a problem, or which ones they have personally witnessed events of that they feel strongly are problems, how accurately they could identify children and how early for some kind of remedial or observational response? Could we avoid tragedies like this?

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Burpee told his girlfriend that he thought he killed his victim. He was just working on disposing the body when it got up and ran. If not for that escape, this would have been a murder as well.

Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 11, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Pat, I suppose that may be some small consolation to some, but I really do not care about Burpee, I care about the victim and the rest of us. I do not want to see Burpee be more abused or have more problems than he already has, that is not the point. Vengeance and punishment may be one dimension of this for some people, I do not see the productivity in that line of thinking. No one deserves a hard life forever for being born or made into a monster, that is something we do not fully understand, but we the people do deserve to be as safe as possible from these people as early as possible after we can identify them, and though the punishment part may be one thing, what about the potential of releasing this back into he world?

Posted by JK
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 11, 2009 at 2:07 pm

Thank you to the prosecuting attorney and the judge for the right conclusion. Yes, I too wish he'd gotten life w/no parole. How can we ever allow Todd Burpee on the streets again? He will not be rehabilitated---we all know it's nearly impossible to rehabilitate a violent sexual predator.

Throw away the key on these useless blobs of flesh. God bless Jane Doe. My prayers go out to her and her family.

Posted by Chris
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 11, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Good riddance to this evil monster. I pray for the victim and her family. I have not one charitable thought for Todd Burpee. The judge said it best: he is an exceptional danger to society. His claim about "post traumatic stress disorder" is absolutely laughable. What about his victim??!

Posted by Not enough
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 11, 2009 at 3:27 pm

We are too lenient. Life sentence at a minimum, and there's a good fair argument he should have received a death sentence. He stalked and tried to murder this poor girl and almost succeeded. He sexually abused her. He almost broke her neck. It's not unreasonable to think she will never recover from his barbaric acts given the nature of the crimes. And his excuse is exactly what? That he had a fight with his girlfriend and was rejected by the Marines? That he had a tough childhood? That he had the misfortune of having to go to one of the top high schools in the U.S.? There's absolutely no excuse for committing a heinous crime. I consider it unfortunate that he is African American because too many think only African Americans commit violent crimes or crimes overall and it's simply not true. Many African Americans are exceptionally good citizens. On the other hand, we just saw the crazy guy in Antioch kidnap and rape that young girl in the East Bay and raise her as his daughter while fathering children with her. He was caucasian. So race or ethnicity plays no role in whether a person commits a heinous crime. It similarly should play no role whether the person gets a light sentence, or life in prison or the death penalty. As far as I'm concerned, both of these individuals should be on death row with an abbreviated appeal process since the circumstances of both crimes are truly horrific and the evidence that both individuals did the crimes -- overwhelming.

Posted by lunchlady
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Sep 11, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Thank you to the Palo Alto policeman who noticed Todd in his car acting suspiciously and wrote down the plate number before the crime. With that piece of info it was easy to find Todd and convict him; without it Todd might still be out there looking for more victims.

Posted by M
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 11, 2009 at 4:11 pm

Well I'm glad to see that he gets some time. We let too many of them off easy nowadays, nobody gets any time. And PTSD? From what?! Give me a break...

Great work to PAPD as usual, and to the sharp officer who recognized his face from the sketch.

This should act as a warning to not only females, but everyone in the community, stay alert and learn how to defend yourselves/carry the tools to do so. I would have been happier had he ended up with a face full of OC, or had his eyes gouged out at the hands of the victim, and the victim had gotten away with maybe a scratch.

Posted by Norm
a resident of Southgate
on Sep 11, 2009 at 4:48 pm

Nice job and solid investigation by PAPD. Without this, this perp would have walked away.

Posted by NewName
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 11, 2009 at 5:29 pm

This was a very small punishment for what this guy has done to the poor girl, I wish he lost his organ to not even think about doing such a thing ever in his whole life and make him an example for rest of his type.

Posted by Ann
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 11, 2009 at 6:02 pm

Justice was sift and fair. Let us now pray for Jane Doe, and her family, that they may have some sort of normalcy in their life.

Posted by Passing Through
a resident of another community
on Sep 11, 2009 at 10:07 pm

I think this happened in October of 2007 so I don't know if I would say that Justice was swift for the victim. It sounds like testifying was pretty traumatic for the victim so I don't know if I would say that it was fair for her. She survived a terrible attack. It sounds like she did it in part by keeping her wits about her. She sounds stronger than she may give herself credit for.

We all have our "stains," Jane Doe. Please don't let what this villian did define you. Someone with your strength has a lot to offer the world.

Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 11, 2009 at 11:23 pm

Passing Though:
> please don't let what this villian did define you.

I find this comment sort of backwards and blame the victim-ish.

You suppose you are being positive in pushing on "Jane Dough" that her
future is in her hands, as if it is up to her how this incident affects
her. I don't think it is. I find the implication being that if Jane Dough
has been mentally damaged from this crime that she did not ask
for and could not do anything about - that it is somehow a defect in
her, rather than something she had no choice about.

I am sure you meant that comment in the best way possible, I am
expressing how it hit me when I read it. I think it is important to
send the message out to Jane Dough that absolutely anyone who
reads about her trauma is on her side and wishes her the best for
the future. I think we all have sympathy for her whatever the extent
that she is able to rise about this awful crime.

Posted by Concealed
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2009 at 11:32 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Patty
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 11, 2009 at 11:35 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by qq
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 11, 2009 at 11:54 pm

hear, hear! California Shall-Issue Concealed Carry!

Support the following bills:

AB 357 - Shall-Issue CCW for California
AB 1167 - CCW Reciprocity for California

Reciprocity Maps
Web Link

It stinks having to have multiple permits just to cover as many states as possible. Thanks anyway to Florida. ;-)

BTW, anyone know the stance on CCW of the three police chief candidates? I'd be curious to know. Santa Clara County has around 1,720,000 residents, and only 176 permit holders. Sad.

Web Link


Posted by M
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 12, 2009 at 12:40 am

Concealed and qq, I agree with both of you, but let's not forget that without proper training and tactics, a firearm will do you no good. A firearm is a tool, and we are the weapons; it should never be the other way around. She was also in high school, so this doesn't really apply to her.

That being said, our society would be a much safer place and a much scarier place for perps if they did not know who was armed. I would love to see the ridiculous "GC" clause opened up in more counties here in CA. Personal protection is good enough of a reason for a CCW, and always has been; and it absolutely boggles my mind that some people don't seem to think so. Those who don't believe in weapons and violence can still die at the hands of those who do. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Don't look now, but Sheriff Smith may be in a bit of trouble for her CCW issuing soon.

Posted by Ken
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 12, 2009 at 6:10 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Justice Served
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2009 at 10:24 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

Posted by Schnee
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 12, 2009 at 10:47 am

First of all: Why does everybody assume that "everybody lives in million dollar houses" in PA? I don't and all the people I know don't live a lifestyle like that. Even if you grow up in PA it is not a given thing that you are rich and safe and well taken care of.....
And second: Everybody needs two important things to grow up: emotional stability and financial stability. It is not enough if you only have one of them. It is not enough if you have all the money in the world and no parents around because they are too busy and it's not enough to have a loving family and no roof over your head.
What Todd Burpee did cannot be excused; there is no reason whatsoever to allow anybody to even think about doing something like this.

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 12, 2009 at 11:31 am

I always wonder how a criminal can pay back money/damages/restitution to his victim and/or a state restitution fund/court fees as ordered. Isn't that a joke.

Posted by Ty
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 12, 2009 at 5:30 pm

It is fact that there is not one single family home in PA that would sell for under 1 million. (EPA doesn't count)

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 12, 2009 at 8:38 pm

Ty - there are homes in PA for under 1m, especially these days.

Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 12, 2009 at 8:55 pm

From the evidence it seems like a combination of choice, pornography and maybe drugs.
What is the girl friends status in the case, as she has not been prosecuted I presume there is no case.

Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Sep 12, 2009 at 9:25 pm

The "Criminal Justice System" is the former, not the latter.

Just as tort reform is being considered in the realm of health care, the whole criminal justice industry needs to be reevaluated, and the profit for lawyers and the incarceration industry needs to be removed.

It will cost 1.9 million to keep Burpee in prison for the next 43 years (43 X $45,000). Is it any wonder why the State is broke?

"Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied" He did his crime in 2007, why does it take 2 years to bring him to justice? What were the costs involved with this "process"?.... and we all know who paid.

Now, with endless legal motions and appeals this could go on for years and years and millions and millions of tax payer dollars paid into a corrupt and self-serving "justice" industry.

The fix: Trial within 1 month. Appeal process, another month, and if the appeal is denied, then sentence executed immediately. In the case of violent crimes like Burpee's, the only appropriate sentence is death. Rehabilitation.... give me a break. That is just a ploy to get them out, so they can do another crime and thus start the whole criminal justice industry cycle again.

There is no rehabilitation in State Prison, indeed, there should be very, very few State Prisons, and the economical thing should be done for violent criminals. Economical in terms of tax payer dollars, and economical in terms of cost to society.

3-strikes and you're out was a start, but for violent criminals 1-strike and you're out makes much more sense... And "out" meaning put to death.

Posted by Justice Served
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2009 at 11:55 pm

I don't know why my last posting was removed - I am using the same name as my first posting here.

Anyway, I agree with Outside Observer, that people who commit animalistic, violet crimes, and sex crimes cannot be rehabilitated and should be executed because they WILL strike again once they are out of prison, especially after living with all those animals.

Why can't they castrate sex offenders? I heard it works well.

Posted by HLM
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Sep 13, 2009 at 12:01 am

I'm thankful that the police and legal system worked hard to successfully put this guy away until he's 60 years old. However, I'm worried Burpee will somehow get out earlier given current state budget issues and ongoing discussions abt revising sentencing standards. As a community, we need to be vigilant of Burpee's whereabouts and NEVER let him get out before the time sentenced.

You see, "Jane Doe" was not the only woman Burpee stalked. A month and a half before her attack, I was brazenly tail-gated, stalked, and followed by Burpee in his gold oldsmobile. Fortunately for me, I saw him and wouldn't get out of the car. He stared me down for at least 5 minutes before giving up. The look on his face was the face of a stone-cold predator. I'll never forget it. I cooperated with the police who took my report. I think it factored into the sentencing. This man is a predator, and I agree an "exceptional danger" to society. I have two that Burpee doesn't make it out of prison, and two that Jane Doe surpasses everyone's expectations and finds strength, community, and courage to overcome this horrific experience. My heart goes out to her.

Posted by Natasha
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 13, 2009 at 12:40 am

So this guy will potentially get out at 68 years old. And the victim has to think of that fact. She will probably think of this guy for all that time and be in fear for that date and work her life around those facts. Truth is, this guy almost killed her, he intended to kill her. He should NEVER get out.

The community should protect her and do whatever it takes to try to help her recover as much as she can. I hope people reach out to her and also the police community and social workers...don't let her fall off the grid. We have a responsibility as a community to try to help this girl. I hope the people that are in place to do that will do that.

God bless you sweetheart. I will pray for you.

Posted by happy
a resident of University South
on Sep 13, 2009 at 6:59 am

Now 43 is my lucky #. He will now have a new home in the state prison. New place to live, new friends... life goes on. I heard that once he gets into main stream prison, he will pay dearly from other prisoners for hurting a female. One can only hope. His ex girlfriend has moved on long ago. She had nothing to do with any of this but will also be changed for it.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2009 at 8:04 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Before Caryl Chessman and Marlin Brando's championing his cause, the Little Lindbergh Law would have dealt appropriately with Burpee. At my age, a death sentence in California is the secret to a comfortable old age. I would like to see, before I go, a correction of one of the last century's biggest mistakes. That was allowing courts the lead in curing social ills because legislatures lacked the gumption to do so. Restoring equity between branches would allow a super-majority vote of congress and a president's signature to overturn a judicial ruling.
Foolish libs did us again.

Posted by bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 13, 2009 at 12:42 pm

bru is a registered user.

The issue is not the death penalty, the issue is this guy and his sentence. Though I support the death penalty in some cases, and this case in particular given the facts that I know, it is still not the issue. Amazingly there are all kinds of problems with the death penalty in terms of its application politically that most intelligent informed people would acknowledge, at least enough to preclude adding it in this conversation as a solution or a relevant bit of information.

I find it sad that this is the kind of discourse we get these days in forums and even the news. As if Barack Obama's birth certificate is relevant to the health care bill. Inflamed emotions and kitchen-sinking every hot issue into every discussion only limits discussion.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2009 at 4:54 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

The subject was an appropriate sentence for a kidnapper-rapist, and I supplied knowledgeable background on the question. FYI Caryl Chessman was white, and yet whites were in the majority urging his execution. No man can do wrong and then, in the words of Gertrude Wilkes, say "but I'm your brother" and go free. Criminals are not representative of their race or culture except as opportunists chose to make them so. Anyone who has something novel to bring into the death penalty debate, surprise me. I have heard nothing new in 40 years on that topic. Look up Singleton for an example of why I hold my attitude. The people who let Singleton loose to rape and, ultimately kill, will be nosing around Burpee in a few years.

Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 13, 2009 at 7:36 pm

Look at his cold, cruel face. This is what the young girl will have to live with all of her life. Such monsters (calling them animals is not fair to animals who do not act in such a manner) deserve life in prison--no parole--or the death penalty. Once they commit their first violent act such criminals should never walk the streets again.

My thoughts are with Jane Doe. May she find the strength to carry on with her life, and know that the majority of people are not murderous thugs.

Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2009 at 8:08 pm


"Anyone who has something novel to bring into the death penalty debate, surprise me. "

Maybe not novel, but seldom expressed. Simple economics. The tax payers should not have to pay 1.9 million to keep Burpee in prison for the next 43 years (43 X $45,000/year).

Yeah, I've seen the stats....err.... excuses that say it's cheaper to keep someone in prison for life than to execute them. Therein is also is the problem. The lawyers are running the joke of what our criminal justice system has become. And running it for their profit at taxpayer expense.

In our current system, justice delayed isn't only justice denied, it's huge $$$ profits for all involved in the criminal justice/incarceration "system", and all on the tax payer's dime.

Whatever you might think of the Chi-Coms, at least they do execute criminals who deserve it... and send a bill for the bullet to the criminal's family.

Posted by ClearIt Up
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2009 at 10:49 pm

Several posts incorrectly state that Burpee did not get life in prison. That is incorrect -- he did get life in prison. He is eligible (only "eligible," that does not mean he will get paroled) after serving 43 years (actually he is eligible after approximately 40 years, 4 months because of custody credits). Just a clarification.

Posted by Ty
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 13, 2009 at 11:09 pm

Happy, don't be fooled that burped will "get what he desersves in mainstream prison". As a former
D.O.C. employee in a state prison, I can tell you it is not true. Sex offender and high profile criminals are well protected by the state and housed in completely separate units (at great expense) from the general population. This misperception that they have anything short of a comfortable life in prison is what liberals would have you believe so you feel that some sort of justice is awaiting the monsters who commit such heinous crimes. I'm sorry to break the news to you, but the fact is that without execution for death penalty inmates, justice will never truely be received, and it isn't rift to believes such Falaehoods just to help ourselves sleep better at night.

Posted by s
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 14, 2009 at 12:44 pm

such vengeful people ,you americans

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 14, 2009 at 4:29 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

The "expense" of the death penalty has been wildly inflated by the judicial acceptance of the barratry that allow obfuscation and abuse of process to have become the stock in trade of the death penalty denyer crowd.
s of Greenmeadow, you could not be further from the truth. While we, as rational humans understand the educational value of retribution, our understanding of our past history of over zealous, misdirected retribution has prompted us to an unprecedented process to protect against of error and overreacting. Ask yourself, s, to which other system of justice would you rather be submitted?

Posted by Katrina B.
a resident of another community
on Sep 14, 2009 at 9:17 pm

Man that sucks cuz i kno him nd he woul never do something like that

Posted by To HLM
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 15, 2009 at 12:17 am

I apologize for being a bit fixated on what you went through with Burpee, but I was completely aghast when I read it - although not surprised.

How are you doing now? I am so glad that you noticed his behavior and remained safe.

Years ago, not long after graduating from high school, I was targeted by a creepy guy who had been a year ahead of me at Paly. He constantly followed me all around downtown, knew where I was working part time and it was only when the police confronted him that he left me alone. I was lucky, because I reported him every time he followed me on foot, and the finally the cops took it seriously.

Posted by Justica
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 15, 2009 at 2:52 pm

This guy needs to be stay in jail for a long, long time. Eventually he may manage to get his head halfway out of his ***.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 15, 2009 at 5:18 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

And yet Burpee will have his champions, marriage proposals, conjugal visits and State paid attorneys serving as his outside dog robbers. He will have the best medical care available and not a worry in the world - he likely will attempt to communicate with his victim to further her subjugation, and there is not a damn thing anyone can do to stop him.
Liberals, this is the foreseeable consequences of game playing with justice. I anxiously await the Fisking.

Posted by Anjanee W.
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 15, 2009 at 10:59 pm

in regards to the comment made by Katrina B. You claim you knew this man. I dont think so, this man has a toddler, who he totally disregarded as his, knowing it to be his. Literally, not look at the baby or speak to it in his presence. What kind of person are you? Do you know that? No, i didnt think so.

Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 20, 2009 at 3:17 am

s of Greenmeadow,

"Vengeful Americans?" Are you by chance referring to those of who are pleased to see justice done in this terrible case? From your post addressing your fellow posters as "Americans" it sounds as if you may not be from this country. If that is the case and you feel we Americans are not showing proper compassion for a convicted criminal, I must say I want little to do with your homeland!

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