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A South Carolina father, who broke down during a 1989 TV news broadcast after finding his dead son, was charged with the boy’s murder this week.
In archived footage, 5-year-old Justin Turner’s father, Victor Lee Turner, is seen going into the family’s camper near their home and quickly backing out, yelling, “My son’s in there. Somebody’s hurt him.”
Justin’s body was stuffed inside a cabinet in the camper with his pants pulled down. He had been strangled and sexually assaulted, according to police.
The case went cold for nearly 35 years until decades of scientific and forensic advancements connected the seemingly distraught father and the boy’s stepmother, Megan Turner, to Justin’s murder.
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Victor Lee Turner and Megan Turner, 5-year-old Justin Turner’s father and stepmother, were charged with murder in Justin’s 1989 death. (Berkley County Sheriff’s Office)
The boy was allegedly strangled with a ligature in the early morning hours of March 3, 1989, before he was supposed to go to school, police said. He was reported missing the same day.
“He never got on that bus because he was dead inside that house,” Berkeley County Sheriff Duane Lewis said during a press conference Wednesday after Victor and Megan were arrested. “I can’t think of a more tragic, horrendous murder. A 5-year-old boy.”
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A ligature that was the suspected murder weapon found in the Turners’ home matched marks on the boy’s body, and microscopic fibers on the ligature were consistent with Justin’s shirt collar material, WCSC reported, based on court documents.
Investigators believe his body was hidden in the camper “a short time” after his death, and a forensic pathologist’s report included in the court documents suggests he died “near the time he was last seen alive,” according to the local news outlet.
Justin Turner, 5, was found strangled to death in 1989 in South Carolina. (Berkley County Sheriff’s Office)
Warrants alluded to the dramatic TV footage of Victor’s response after finding his dead son and said their “deliberate actions and obvious behavior … is highly suggestive that they knew exactly where (Justin) was located.”
“Rather than react to finding his son and personally checking for any indication of life whatsoever, (Victor) instead backed out of the camper commenting, ‘He’s in there, my son is in there. Somebody’s hurt him,’” the warrant says, according to WCSC.
Victor “later told investigators, ‘He looked dead. I could feel that something was wrong with him. I did NOT touch him,'” the warrant says.
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Justin’s stepmother was a suspect after admitting to arguing with the boy the morning he died, but charges were dropped in November 1990 because there was a lack of evidence.
Two years later, a grand jury voted not to indict Megan, who changed her name from Pamela K. Turner shortly after Justin’s death.
The Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office announces the arrests of Victor and Megan Turner in the 1989 death of 5-year-old Justin Turner. (Berkley County Sheriff’s Office)
Victor and Megan were arrested Wednesday at their home in Cross Hill, South Carolina, and charged with murder. They face up to life in prison if convicted.
They appeared virtually in court the same evening, where Amy Parsons, Justin’s cousin who was 8 when he died, addressed the suspected killers.
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“For 35 years you have enjoyed your freedom,” Parsons said, according to The Post and Courier. “You do not deserve one day outside of those prison walls for what you did to Justin.
“You were supposed to take care of him, love him, and instead you tortured, abused and murdered him, your child. It takes a sick individual to do what you did.”
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During the press conference, Sheriff Lewis said Justin would have been 40 years old if he were still alive.
He “could have graduated high school, went to college, got married, had a child, been a productive citizen,” the sheriff said. “But he wasn’t because we believe these two people took that away from all of us and this family who I have been in contact with over the years.
“And they have been tremendous in their efforts to keep this case alive and keep pushing us and asking questions and in helping us get where we are today.”
Chris Eberhart is a crime and US news reporter for Fox News Digital. Email tips to [email protected] or on Twitter @ChrisEberhart48.