It was early February of 2014 when my regular 10:00 PM local news channel surfing took a startling pause. The banner covered nearly a quarter of my widescreen. It read POLICE: TEEN MURDERED MAN DURING SEX ACTIVITY.
Naturally, I watched with baited breath:
"New details are emerging tonight-disturbing and troubling details-of what police say is the murder of a 43 year old man” crooned Lynne Sue Cooney, a 31 year veteran newscaster at the Gannett Corporation’s local news outlet NBC 12. Mark Curtis, NBC 12’s senior teleprompter reader completes the sentence with “allegedly killed by a 16 year old girlfriend during a SEX ACT.” Curtis continued “Tonight Jessica Burlew is being charged as an adult with second degree murder in the death of Jason Ash. Investigators claim Burlew killed Ash by strangling him during a sex act and then she cut his dead body.”
Shocking news? Should real men be fearful or are we missing the obvious? In Arizona the age of consent is 18, before that it is considered statutory rape and yes, it is illegal. In some states, it is illegal to imprison and try a minor as an adult. But this is Maricopa County, Arizona.
Somehow, hidden from the media (but available in the police report) was the painfully obvious truth: Jason Ash, a 43 year meth addict and sexual predator had been abusing 16 year old Jessica Burlew emotionally, sexually and physically. Jessie’s mental health issues have been documented since the age of four. She suffers from autism and schizophrenia. According to the police report, Ash was also supplying her with heroin and meth, a lethal combo for a 16 year old with severe mental health issues. He also brought her into his own deadly style of S & M. On Jessie’s chest is a heart. That heart was carved into her by Jason a few weeks before his death. They shared the same razors during “Knife Play,” something Ash trained Jessie to do as foreplay. Both cut each other regularly. Jason also taught Jessie about erotic asphyxiation. The same electrical cord Jason tied himself and young Jessie off with before shooting heroin also worked well as Jason’s choke-toy, at least until he was too high to remember the “safe word” and Jessie, a mentally ill 16 year old was too stoned to understand what was even happening. It takes very little research to know that hundreds of people die every year from erotic asphyxiation. From Michael Hutchence, lead singer for The Australian rock band INXS to actor David Carradine. Alone or with a partner, erotic asphyxiation is considered a dangerous activity even by those within the fetish community. A 43 year old male who stalked his victims on-line is hardly what sane people refer to as a “boyfriend” yet thats exactly how he was referred to by the corporate media.
Lets not forget that this was early 2014 when Arizona's local news outlets were enjoying high ratings over the sexy, sensational murder trial featuring Jodi Arias, found guilty for the murder of her boyfriend, Travis Alexander. Alexander had sustained over 26 stab wounds, his throat was slit. Arias allegedly put a bullet in his head which the coroners determined was the cause of death. Nothing trends for media like sex and murder in Arizona. But the differences here are immense. Jodi Arias, an adult, knew what she was doing-at least according to the jury and judge. Jessie Burlew, only did what she was taught to do by the predator who injected heroin into her. If Jessie Burlew caused the death of Jason Ash it was clearly an accident. Arias also comes from a different social and economic background than Jessie. She had a legal team of experts fighting for her. Jessie’s public defender seems absent, not returning inquiries from media. Yet both are locked up at Estrella Adult Prison run by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who boasts of feeding dogs better than prisioners, pre-trial or otherwise. No surprise, Arias was found guilty. Jessie has been locked up with no hope of bail for over 17 months now. It is highly unlikely that given proper legal counsel, Jessie could be found guilty of anything worse than running away from group homes and not taking her medication. But this is Arizona. From the notorious county jails to the many private prisons we fund at the expense of mental health and education, we have problems we refuse to address. When an innocent 16 year old is locked up and written off for over a year without even a trial, when not one politician concerns him or herself with it, we have a serious moral dilemma.
Jessie's only hope for any fair trial seems to be from those who discovered her story, and are trying to help anyway they can. They aren't lawyers, politicians, huge non-profits or churches either. The murder porn value of a story like this is too great to expect mainstream media to not exploit it in a negative light. It's easier to spin "teen kills boyfriend" instead of "43 year old meth addict and on-line sexual predator found dead in accident caused by victim." I guess the title is too long.
Prisoner rights advocate Peggy Plews has been corresponding with Jessie. She reports that "For over 400 days now, Jessie's been in solitary confinement (aka "close custody"), allowed out of her cage only one or two hours per day for showers, phone calls, and an occasional stretch. She leaves her part of the jail only if in shackles and chains, returning, always, to her private hell through the trauma of body cavity searches. That's the only physical human contact she's allowed to have - being handled like a piece of meat. "
Beth Payne is part of a support group called Free Jessica Burlew. She writes "Jessie has consistently stated that she had no intent to hurt Jason Ash, that he asked her to wrap the cord around his neck, and that she had no idea he was in so much distress. The crime scene supports that. Jason Ash was a large man, much bigger than Jessie. His body was found laying on the bed as though he went to sleep. There was no sign of a struggle. He could have easily overpowered Jessie if he had tried. He likely lost consciousness before he had a chance to indicate to her that there was a problem. It's a tragic story, but it is not a murder.”
It takes an incredible imagination (or complete lack of concern) to accept that 16 year old Jessie Burlew was able to over-power 43 year old Jason Ash and choke him to death. But Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery charged Jessie with second degree murder just days after the incident. This is the same County Attorney who refused to charge Maricopa County Deputy Sean Pearce with manslaughter after he plowed his unmarked vehicle into another while going 81 in a 40 MPH zone. Sean Pearce is the son of well connected former Az. State Senate President Russell Pearce, a former law enforcement officer himself-famous for his "tough on crime" policies and extreme anti-immigrant legislation. He pleaded guilty to a speeding ticket and took a driving class for his role in his on-duty hot rodding that killed an elderly man. Pearce had his siren and lights off during the crash.
As Peggy Plews further explains:
"Jessie has had very little mental health treatment or counseling in custody short of "competency restoration proceedings" which are only designed to assure that she understands the legal charges she's facing and can assist in her own defense.
Medical care has also been shoddy - her requests to have headaches and dizzy spells evaluated have been minimized. She was abruptly taken off her psych meds one week before her trial was originally to start, with no explanation or response to her complaints about withdrawal symptoms.
Jessie does have one alternative to sitting in her solitary hell: when she can't deal with it anymore and gets sent to the mental health unit, she's stripped naked and left alone in a cold cell with only a smock to wear and suicide blanket to cuddle. She isn't allowed to make phone calls or have a shower, even if there for a week - no one is. Apparently, one must sit in their stink on suicide watch until they spontaneously feel better about themselves, or at least swear not to do themselves in while in custody. “
According to a recent facebook event hosted by Sumayyah Dawud. Jessica Burlew has a court date set for 8:30 AM, June 10th at the Maricopa County Superior Courthouse. Click here for the details. If you want injustices like this to stop, visit Free Jessica Burlew or you can just thoughtlessly believe in what the murder porn industry is telling you.
5-25-2015 update from Peggy Pews:
"The jail staff are now suggesting that her custody level might be changed soon, to get her out of 23 hour a day lockdown - now that the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and the Arizona Center for Disability Law have become involved, of course. And Jess and the other girls being charged as adults have been moved from Estrella to Lower Buckeye Jail, where they report they are getting more access to programs and services. Thanks ACLU-AZ, as well as the AzCDL, for whatever you did to help improve things for the kids!
And thanks to the rest of you out there who have been sharing Jess' story and offering support. Keep the pressure on both the defense and the county attorney's office, as well as the MCSO - they will all be held accountable for what happens to her."
Article by Dennis Gilman.
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