(NEW YORK) — A father and stepmother have been arrested for the murder of their 5-year-old son nearly 35 years after he was killed, authorities announced.
Victor Lee Turner and Megan R. Turner (formerly known as Pamela K. Turner) were taken into custody at their Cross Hill, South Carolina, home on Wednesday and charged with the cold case murder of Justin Lee Turner, according to Berkeley County Sheriff Duane Lewis.
“I can’t think of a more tragic, horrendous murder,” Lewis said at a Wednesday news conference.
Megan Turner, then known as Pamela Turner, reported Justin missing on March 3, 1989, telling Berkeley County authorities that the 5-year-old never got off the school bus that afternoon, according to the probable cause affidavit.
But Lewis said authorities believe Justin was killed before he had the chance to go to school that morning.
Two days later, Victor Turner found his son’s strangled body hidden in the Turners’ pickup truck camper on their property, according to the probable cause affidavit.
Because Justin’s body, clothing and shoes didn’t have any outside debris, authorities believed he was carried from his home to the camper, the probable cause affidavit said. And the specific location of the 5-year-old’s body suggests it was hidden by someone familiar with the camper and its layout, and the Turners were the only ones with access and keys, according to the probable cause affidavit.
Before Justin’s body was found, Victor Turner was overheard “asking a law enforcement official at the scene, nervously while wringing his hands, what if someone had done harm to the Victim, such as killed him, and that [if that person] was in the family, what would happen to them?” the document said.
Investigators determined Justin died around the time he was last seen alive, and his father and stepmother were the last ones with him, according to the probable cause affidavit.
Justin’s stepmom later admitted to witnesses that she had an “altercation” with the 5-year-old before the time she said she last saw him alive, and she allegedly gave “misinformation to investigators” about her whereabouts that day, according to the probable cause affidavit.
At one point, Pamela Turner was arrested in connection with Justin’s death, but the case was dismissed without prejudice, the sheriff said. She then changed her name to Megan and she and Victor Turner moved out of Berkeley County and never contacted the sheriff’s office about the case again, according to Lewis.
In 2021, Justin’s cold case file was reviewed to see if the evidence could be reevaluated using new technology, the sheriff said.
Several pieces of evidence led to this week’s arrests, the sheriff said, including that investigators were able to narrow down time of death based on contents in Justin’s stomach and investigators used new forensic testing to “tie in the murder weapon that we believe was used to strangle Justin to clothing and fabric on his clothing at the time of his death.”
Forensic analysis found that a ligature recovered from the Turners’ home was likely the weapon used to strangle Justin, and when the Turners learned that evidence, including the ligature, was taken from the home, they allegedly “expressed concern and devised a plan to withhold/conceal potential evidence,” the probable cause affidavit said. The Turners allegedly “uttered spontaneous incriminating statements to indicate responsibility in the death of the victim and intent to conceal physical evidence,” the document said.
“Today Justin would’ve been 40 years old,” the sheriff said. “Could’ve graduated high school, went to college, got married, had a child, been a productive citizen.”
“All we want is justice,” Justin’s cousin, Amy Parsons, who was 8 at the time he was killed, said at Wednesday’s news conference. “And I want to see our justice system do what it was intended to do and put these two people where they deserve to be, because they’ve walked for 34 years … while our family has suffered.”
The Turners’ first court appearances are scheduled for March 15. It was not immediately clear if they had attorneys.
Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.