(Airman 1st Class Ashley Turner with her mother, Lisa.)
I have been following the terribly tragic case of Airman 1st Class Ashley Turner in Stars and Stripes. Wednesday the tragedy was compounded, perhaps for the last time.
Ashley Turner was murdered on August 14th, 2005 at the US Naval Air Station Keflavik in Iceland. Turner was murdered 8 days before she was to testfy in the court martial of fellow Airman Calvin Eugene Hill who was accused of stealing her ATM card and withdrawing $2700, an act apparently caught on an ATM video. However inexplicably Airman Hill had not been placed in a holding facility and Ashley Turner "had been ordered to live in the same dorm as a man she was scheduled to testify against for stealing from her." Hill was eventually charged with Turner's murder with prosecutors claiming "Hill hunted her down, slammed an exercise weight into her face, dragged her body into the spare room and then attacked her with a knife." Ashley's blood was found on one of Hill's shoelaces. An Army private testified that Hill had confessed the crime to him in the jail cell they shared in Germany. But despite motive and the evidence Hill was found not guilty of her murder on Wednesday.
The verdict came as yet another in a line of blows to the family of Ashley Turner. The first blow came as the family learned of Ashley's death. The military did not inform the family she had been murdered. Turner's mother, Lisa, said “We knew absolutely nothing. I kept thinking she just fell off the treadmill.” According to Lisa, “We found out through an Iceland paper on the Internet she was murdered." The family reached out to that paper for more news much to the shock and dismay of the Icelandic paper....
The Grapevine was first contacted by different members of the Turner family on August 17th, two days after we posted a news story about the murder of Ashley Christine Turner on August 14th at the Keflavík Navy Base.
In personal correspondence, the Turner family requested regular updates, indicating that the chain of command at Keflavík wasn’t being forthcoming with information surrounding the case.
Initially, the correspondence took us by surprise. We were only publishing translations and explanations of what the Icelandic media were saying about the murder. Surely the base officials could tell more.
The paper was moved to do a report on the case and the growing violence of a minority of personnel at the base. It concluded with a letter from Ashley's brother forwarded to the paper by the family so people could understand and relate to who Ashley had been. It is an incredible article.
But the bungling on the part of the military did not end there. There was confusion on performing autopsies, "several misprinted death certificates and a botched delivery of death benefits." Through it all, the Turner's who are a military family were loathe to speak out against the military.
But on Wednesday, when after only 5 hours of deliberation a jury of 8 officers and 6 enlisted men delivered a not guilty verdict for the man the Turner's believed murdered their daughter, they expressed their outrage....
“They just wanted to get it done and get out of there,” [Lisa] Turner said. “It was a travesty of justice.”
“I think the jury was concerned about getting home in time to avoid rush-hour traffic,” Larry Turner, who is divorced from Lisa, said in a separate telephone interview Thursday.
“It’s almost comical, for a case of this gravity, for them to make a decision in that short a time,” Larry Turner said. “It was like an insult: an insult to the court system, an insult to the prosecution and an insult to us.”
Throughout the trial, the Turner family had made no secret of the fact that they believed Hill had killed their daughter.
Now that Hill has been acquitted of those charges, “there’s [going to be] a murderer on our streets,” Lisa Turner said.
Larry Turner agreed.
“I feel you have a killer among you now,” he said.
Larry Turner, a former enlisted sailor, said “we got kicked in the teeth yesterday” and that in retrospect, he wishes that he had made a scene when the “not guilty” verdict was read in court.
“I should have gotten up, yelled, screamed, pointed at the accused,” he said. “But I thought [at the time], ‘I’m going to show respect for our system of justice, which I still believe in, and show respect for my daughter.’”
Lisa Turner said she is considering “moving to another country,” because she has “I’m disappointed with the United States at this point.”
She said she also is angry with the Air Force, “who failed Ashley twice — “once, for leaving her in the same dormitory with Hill before the court-martial for the ATM theft charges, and now for failing to find Hill guilty of her daughter’s murder.
“The jury panel has just killed her again,” Lisa Turner said.
The defense had apparently created some reasonable doubt because the Army private who testified about Hill's confession had recanted at one point prior to his sworn testimony at trial. Also the use of Turner's key card after her attack could not be explained and finally this from the defense....
They speculated rescue crews might have allowed Turner's blood to spill as they carried her out of the building, blood that later ended up on Hill's shoe.
That terrible image, the possible mishandling of Ashley's body, is indicative of this case which has just been horribly mishandled from start to finish. The case has received little media attention here in the US. As I followed the painful accounts from the family of Ashley Turner in Stars and Stripes I thought surely they would ultimately receive justice. Tragically they were failed there also....once again.