Charges dropped against parents in child’s 1989 death

Victor Lee Turner and Megan R. Turner (formerly known as Pamela K. Turner)

BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. — A judge in South Carolina has dropped charges against a father and stepmother in the death of their son in 1989.

Justin Lee Turner had been found strangled to death in a cabinet in a camper behind his home in Berkeley County, South Carolina, in March 1989, WCBD reported.

Officials said they thought the scene had been staged and claimed they had caught his father, Victor Turner, and stepmother, Megan Turner (formerly Pamela Turner), telling lies, Berkely County Sheriff Duane Lewis said when he announced charges against the couple earlier this year. They were arrested in January and released on a $50,000 surety bond.

Lewis said at the time that “new technology and forensic medicine” led to the couple’s arrest 35 years after Justin was killed.

The couple said their son had not gotten off his school bus after school when they reported him missing. Officials said he never got on the bus in the morning.

Megan Turner, who had been indicated by a grand jury less than a year after Justin’s death but whose charges were eventually dropped due to a lack of evidence, said that she didn’t walk him to the bus as she normally did because she wasn’t feeling well that morning and that he walked to his friend’s home alone to catch the bus, Law & Crime reported.

Victor Turner found his son’s body in the camper and turned around immediately after finding him, telling authorities who were there, “He’s in there, my son is in there. Somebody’s hurt him,” a warrant stated, according to Law & Crime.

He later told law enforcement that he didn’t check if his son was breathing because he said the boy “looked dead. I could feel that something was wrong with him. I did not touch him.’”

When Victor Turner spoke with law enforcement, he allegedly asked them what would happen if a family member had “done harm to the victim, such as killed him,” Law & Crime reported.

He was not charged at the time because his alibi indicated he was at work when Justin disappeared, WCBD reported.

The couple’s attorney claimed that the more than three-decade period from the murder of their son to their arrest was too long, especially when no new evidence had been uncovered. He also argued that a grand jury, several sheriffs and others had investigated but no charges had been filed from 1989 until 2024.

Defense attorneys also claimed there was another potential suspect, serial killer Richard Evontiz who was in the area when Justin had been killed, WCSC reported.

“You’ve got a serial killer out there that possibly could be the person who did it. But he was never looked at, so we were always the ones under suspicion,” Megan Turner said after the charges were dropped on Friday.

The judge apparently agreed, writing, “The Court... finds that the prejudice to the Defendants far outweighs any reasons for the delay — reasons the State of South Carolina has failed to identify in this case,” WCSC reported.

Judge Roger Young dismissed the charges against the Turners with prejudice. That means the decision is final and charges cannot be refiled. Young cited the time spanning Justin’s death and when the charges against his parents were filed, as well as the lack of evidence.

The court also said that many witnesses are either deceased or not available and that evidence cannot be collected or tested because it no longer exists.

The items include the camper, a dog leash believed to have been used to kill Justin and clothes that had urine stains.

“As the testimony at the motions hearing revealed, the time that has passed since this despicable crime has resulted in witness testimony and evidence that is now unavailable. Furthermore, mistakes that were made 35 years ago could not be remedied. The Court has found that the unavailability of this evidence is unjustly prejudicial to the defense. The Court has also noted the lack of any new evidence from this investigation. We have no grounds to dispute the Court’s findings,” Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said in a statement, according to Law & Crime.

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