Thursday, March 3, 2011
Public’s help sought 22 years after shocking murder
Little Justin Lee Turner has not been forgotten.
Not around Berkeley County, not around Moncks Corner, and certainly not around the halls of the Berkeley County Sheriffs Office.
Thursday marks the 22nd anniversary of the five-year old’s death. At the time of the killing, he was a kindergarten student at Whitesville Elementary School.
This is the first in a series about Berkeley County’s oldest active unsolved murder case. That it remains unsolved is a sore point with Berkeley County Sheriff Wayne DeWitt and BCSO investigators. To this day, they are puzzled at the lack of physical evidence.
“We did not have the physical evidence to prosecute anyone for Justin Turner’s murder back then, and to date there has been surprisingly little evidence surfacing in regard to this case,” said DeWitt. “It’s a case that a lot of people in this county would love to see solved.
“It weighs on a lot of people’s mind.”
According to Captain Rick Ollic, head of the BCSO’s Criminal Investigation Division, on March 3, 1989 BCSO deputies responded to a missing child call at 214 Horseshoe Road in Moncks Corner.
“The only information we had at the time was that he was supposed to leave the residence in the morning to catch the school bus,” Ollic said. “He did not get off the bus that afternoon.”
It was later learned through an investigator’s interview with the bus driver that Turner never got on the bus that morning.
“When Justin Turner didn’t get off the bus that afternoon from school, the stepmother, Pamela Karen Turner, called the Sheriff’s Office to report the boy missing,” Ollic said. “That’s when (the BCSO) initiated a search of the immediate area,”
Ollic was a road deputy with BCSO at the time and participated in the actual search.
Deputies and the Berkeley County Rescue Squad conducted a search of the Horseshoe Road area. “They couldn’t find anything,” Ollic said.
Ollic added that SLED (State Law Enforcement Division) had been called in on March 4 to provide assistance in the search. The search team grew to more than 100 members of law enforcement, volunteer firefighters, and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources as investigators scoured the nook of Horseshoe Road where Justin Turner lived with his father and stepmother.
“Investigators interviewed everyone in the bus stop area,” Ollic said. “No one saw the boy at the bus stop area that morning. The step-mom said she was in the shower when Justin Turner knocked on the door to say he was leaving.”
According to the case file, the search continued until March 5, when the body was discovered in a camper located on the property.
The body was found by the boy’s father, Victor Turner.
DeWitt, then a chief deputy with the BCSO, finds this discovery odd.
“For the dad to be the one to find the body is so ironic,” he said. “We had so many people out there looking for him that it’s a little odd that the dad found him before anyone else did.”
During the original search in the days before Victor Turner’s discovery of his son’s body BCSO deputy Phil Mason – who had been on the scene since day one – had already searched the camper and did not find the body inside.
While no suspect or suspects were ever charged with the murder, investigators originally focused their attention on Pamela Turner as a suspect and the boy’s father.
“The investigation still considers Pamela Turner a suspect in Justin Turner’s murder and the father Victor Turner as someone who may know something about what happened,” DeWitt said.
According to the file, Justin Turner died by asphyxiation due to strangulation and sexual assault with a blunt object. Ollic said no DNA evidence was found on the body.
“There was nothing found on the scene or the boy’s body that would lead investigators to the identity of those responsible for his death,” Ollic said.
He added that he has pulled the physical evidence out of the archives and is going over everything they have again.
“There just isn’t anything new out there to tell us much,” he said. “We need some help in solving this crime.”
DeWitt is asking the public for help and says no thought or recollection of the event is considered too trivial for BCSO investigators.
“You may think it’s not important but it could be of great magnitude to this case,” DeWitt said. “There are so many things involved with this case that simply don’t add up.”
Justin Turner’s natural mother, Elaine Pace, kept the case alive over the years, according to DeWitt.
“She called the case investigators all the time,” he said. “She was all over this case wanting to know if anything new had come up.”
Pace died in 2004 and with her so did Justin Turner’s case.
“We last looked at the case back in 2002,” Ollic said. “Nothing new has turned up. No new information has come forward.”
“This is one case we want to get solved,” DeWitt said. “When the story surfaces hopefully someone out there will read this and remember something or get that pull on their conscience and come forward with some new information.”
Anyone with information regarding the murder of Justin Turner is invited to call the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division at (843) 719-4412, or 719-4424. In Charleston, call (843) 723-3800, extension 4412 or 4424.
Interested parties can also call the Crime Stopper’s hotline to remain anonymous. That number is (843) 554-1111.
“Somebody’s got to know something,” Ollic said.