Charges dismissed against South Carolina father and stepmother in death of 5-year-old in 1989 cold case

Murder charges against Victor Lee Turner and Megan Renee Turner, who were arrested in January and charged in the 1989 cold case death of Justin Lee Turner, Victor’s son, were dropped Friday by a South Carolina judge who questioned the viability of evidence in the case.

The father and stepmother were charged roughly 35 years after the body of the 5-year-old boy was found near his family’s residence, CNN previously reported.

Circuit Judge Roger Young ruled the original detective in the case changed his interpretations of the evidence, and with more than 20 witnesses either dead or unable to testify, the couple couldn’t put up a fair defense and question witnesses who claimed they made incriminating statements, The Associated Press reported.

The judge barred prosecutors from ever charging the couple again, according to the AP.

Speaking outside court following the dismissal of charges, the Turners professed their innocence. “I’m glad it’s over with,” Victor Turner said. “I’m still sad about it. That’s all I can say about it right now, but I can hold my head up a little bit.”

“We didn’t do it,” Megan Turner said.

Young, in his ruling, said, “This is a circumstantial evidence (case) which depends on part on supposedly incriminating statements made to third persons. Unavailability of those witnesses for cross examination would be highly prejudicial to the defense,” according to the AP. The detective who investigated the case in 1989 was rehired by the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office in 2021 to review cold cases.

“Judge Young has upheld the oath of his office by following the law,” the Ninth Circuit Solicitor’s Office said in a statement. “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.”

An affidavit provided to CNN by the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office in January said the Turners, of Cross Hill, falsely reported their son missing on March 3, claiming he never got off the school bus. Witnesses, however, confirmed the child was never on the bus, nor was he in attendance at school that day, their affidavits show.

Ultimately, the investigation determined the Turners were the “last and only persons” to have seen their son alive and interact with him before his death, the documents released earlier this year said.

“This is not the outcome we were seeking; however, we understand the technicality of prosecuting cases from crimes that occurred years ago,” Berkeley County Sheriff Duane Lewis said Friday in a statement.

The family of Justin Turner, while asking for privacy, said the justice system failed.

“Based off the overwhelming evidence, the ones responsible for Justin’s death had the chance to face justice here, but instead chose to stay silent and face the final justice handed out by God for eternity! The truth is there, the justice is not.”

For more CNN news and newsletters create an account at