48 Hours Mystery: A Killer Defense
Richie Turner could barely find the words to tell his sister, Wendy, the unimaginable news.
"It was probably one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life," he says. "I couldn't tell her. You know, I sat there and I cried."
"He asked if I was sitting down," Wendy recalls. "He said that my mom had died. And I was frantic."
"She said, 'I have to go, I have to go.' That was very hard to do," says Richie.
Their mother was dead and their father lay in a hospital bed in serious condition.
"Did you want to rush to your father's side? Van Sant asks.
"No, no. Absolutely not," Wendy replies. "I knew that when they said that my mom had been killed, that it was him. Nobody had to tell me that. I knew that."
"I saw it on the news and my first reaction was, 'Kirk did this,'" says Jennifer's friend Susan Doran. "Nobody else would ever try to harm Jennifer. Nobody. So I knew immediately… it was him."
"The long drawn out divorce… the fact that he had a girlfriend… the fact that he was a millionaire, the fact that this was an embarrassment to his practice. All these things are called motive," District Attorney Greg Brown tells the court.
Prosecutor Greg Brown could not wait to challenge Kirk when he took the stand.
Brown: Can you tell this jury at what point did you decide to kill your wife?
Kirk: I could not tell you that.
But Brown is convinced Dr. Turner is lying. He believes Kirk made a conscious choice to kill Jennifer just moments before their fatal encounter.
"She had no idea what was coming," Brown tells Van Sant.
By Brown's reckoning, Kirk Turner was itching for a fight that September night when he arrived at the farm.
Kirk's aim was to get Jennifer to drop her embarrassing lawsuit against his girlfriend, Tondja Colvin.
"The defendant came with the purpose to confront her," Brown says. "He was devastated because of the alienation of affection lawsuit."
So Kirk sprung a surprise on Jennifer: the damaging affidavit from her ex-husband to show that Kirk, too, could play dirty.
Says Brown, "He had a particular purpose; and that purpose was to threaten his wife with these documents."
"I'd never thought of it as a threat," Kirk testifies.
Alone in the small shed that night, tempers flared; especially, Brown says, after Jennifer read over those documents.
"She crumpled them up," Brown tells Van Sant. "She may have said something offensive to him. She may have scratched his face. And at that point in time, he made a decision that he was going to kill his wife… The defendant took out his knife, stabbed his wife and murdered her."
"I always have a pocketknife on my person… I just remember my hand like this," Kirk gestures, waving it in the air just above shoulder height.
"This was not self-defense?" asks Van Sant. "That's correct," Brown replies.
Brown:You do remember your wife's eyes being open when you killed her?
Kirk: I remember her layin' on the floor, and seeing her eyes. And they were open.
Kirk insists he had no choice but to protect himself once Jennifer began stabbing him with that seven-foot spear.
Prosecutor Rob Taylor is not buying Kirk's story.
"All the physical evidence at the scene did not show an attack by Jennifer Turner on her husband," Taylor says.
Or that she even touched that spear. "No fingerprint that we can say was lifted that absolutely puts that spear in her hands," he says.
With Jennifer dead at his feet, prosecutors believe Kirk needed a way out. They say he staged the scene to make it look like self-defense. Then, he did the unthinkable.
"He grabs the spear, sits down in a chair or some location, and puts those wounds into his leg," Taylor says.
Kirk's attorney, Joe Cheshire, says that's ludicrous. "I've had doctors say to me, 'If you were wild and crazed on PCP, maybe you could do it once but you could never do it twice.'" It does sound unbelievable. But, Taylor says, consider those injuries to Kirk's thigh.
"Two wounds going through and through the leg with no twisting of the blade. It appeared no ripping of the skin. They appear to [be] pretty clean wounds through and through and that's not consistent with someone in a spear battle trying to dodge, maneuver, trying to avoid the contact to get away," he points out.
Brown: Mr. Turner, isn't it a fact that you inflicted those two wounds to the fat part of your leg so you could give a convincing reason why you butchered your wife, so you could claim self defense. Isn't that correct?
Kirk: That is not correct.
The mystery of what happened to Jennifer Turner can actually be found right where she died," Van Sant points out from the crime scene. Jennifer's blood, and some of Kirk's as well, got shot up on the side of a wood worktable. Why it happened and how it happened is at the heart of this case.
Johnny Marks, the prosecution team's lead investigator, thinks the blood evidence contradicts Kirk's story.
"Now, if you believe Kirk's story that he was facing her, the knife goes in, he rips across… there's a second wound across there. Now we all know that when the carotid artery is cut, each beat of the heart, blood shoots out of the body… So there should be blood, your investigation claims, there should be blood right up here," Van Sant notes, referencing the top of the worktable, where there is no blood spatter.
The blood was found on the side of the work table just inches above the floor. Police say that proves Jennifer was not standing when her throat was cut.
According to Brown, "He knocked her backwards; he went down on top of her. She was defenseless. She did not have the spear."
"He had to bury that knife in her neck and rip it across her neck over to her breast area," says Taylor. "That's not a defensive thing to do. That's an attacking murderous event to do."
And it was not only the blood spray that led them to that conclusion.
"One of the most important things that we looked at when we looked at any of the evidence was these bloody footprints," says Taylor.According to Kirk, he was stabbed first. But crime scene investigators determined that some of Jennifer's blood was dried or drying before Kirk's fresh blood began falling on top of it.
"Her blood should be on top of his because he claims he was attacked first," Van Sant remarks.
"That's correct," says Marks.
"But it's just the opposite and that makes you suspicious."
"Right. You're correct."
The drying blood is evidence, prosecutors say, of an elaborate cover up. And they allege that Kirk had some help from his best friend, Greg Smithson.
"We really had to show that he was not telling the truth," Brown tells Van Sant.
"I think they were on a witch hunt," says Smithson.
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