48 Hours Mystery: A Killer Defense
Produced by Paul LaRosa, Chuck Stevenson and Susan Mallie
Nearly two years after Jennifer Turner was killed, Greg Brown, a North Carolina prosecutor, lays out the case against her husband, Dr. Kirk Turner.
"Sept. 12, 2007, was reckoning day for the defendant: a pending divorce, unresolved property settlement, huge support payments was on his mind," District Attorney Greg Brown tells the court. "The physical evidence will speak loud and clear that the defendant is guilty of first-degree murder."
But Defense Attorney Brad Bannon says the last thing on Dr. Turner's mind that night was murder.
"'She stabbed me with a spear, she just kept stabbing me,'" he said of his client's actions. "The most primal human impulse that we have is that of self preservation and that is what this case is about."
Brad Bannon says Kirk Turner stabbed his wife with a knife only after she attacked him with a seven-foot spear.
"This is where she stabbed Kirk in the arm. This is where she stabbed him twice in his leg," Bannon tells jurors, referencing a photo of Kirk's injured leg.
"There is no way that could have been my mother. I can't imagine her with a spear in her hands," Kirk and Jennifer's daughter, Wendy tells "48 Hours Mystery" correspondent Peter Van Sant. "My mother was to me just the epitome of a gentle soul."
Friends Linda Ernst and Susan Doran believe they knew the real Jennifer Turner.
"There is no way that Jennifer would attack Kirk," Doran tells Van Sant. "She never would have done that," adds Ernst.
"Could Jennifer be a violent person? Could there have been a part of her that you didn't know?" he asks Doran.
"I never saw that side," she replies. "I can't believe it even existed or ever would have."
Anne Gould rode horses with Jennifer nearly every day. "She handled her horses very well. She took care of them. She absolutely adored them," Gould says. "At the time of her death, she owned nine horses. It was her dream to start a breeding farm, but it was her husband who put that dream into reality and encouraged her to make this a business… a moneymaking business…"
That would be another money making business since Kirk was already a very successful dentist with an annual salary of $650,000.
"Any time you ask a patient what they thought of Kirk Turner as a dentist, they all thought he was a great man," says Jennifer's friend, Tara Whittaker, who worked at Kirk's dental practice.
"[He] always treated us very well… always took us out to lunches… he was a very generous man towards all of us and he talked about his wife, how much he loved her and about the children, about vacations they would all be taking together," Whittaker tells Van Sant.
Kirk and Jennifer seemed like a terrific match. And that's why everyone, especially Jennifer, was shocked when Kirk announced he was leaving her after 23 years of marriage.
"He insisted on coming to my school and telling me to my face that they were going to be separated," Wendy says of learning of her parent's marital problems. "I asked him that night if he was cheating on my mother, and he said he was not."
But that was a bald-faced lie.
"My mom had video evidence of him cheating on her," says Wendy of the video taken by a private investigator her mother hired.
Jennifer was shocked to see that Kirk was frequently at the home of another woman - a woman who once was the family's personal banker, Tondja Colvin.
"I would have been so angry and I think most women would be angry to find out your husband is seeing your personal banker," Ernst says. "Yeah, I think I would have been very angry and she was just hurt over it."
"Did she ever say anything to you, 'I'm gonna get that SOB?'" Van Sant asks.
"No, no," Ernst says. "I think she was just tryin' to figure out how to survive and where to go next."
A lot of money was on the line: a 10,000-square-foot house, a 35-acre horse farm and Kirk's collection of vintage Corvettes.
"He liked to collect things, a lot of different things," Wendy explains. "He had a lot of guns. That would be another collection."
Jennifer stayed in the house after Kirk moved out. A court ordered him to pay her more than $30,000 a month.
It was a lot of money, but friend Anne Gould says Jennifer needed it to operate the horse breeding business that she and Kirk owned together.
"She was clearing pastures on her own. She was putting in fences. It was a 12 hour-a-day job. She was running a business," Gould explains.
And then there was the human cost; Kirk's actions splintered the family. Son Richie left his mother's home and he eventually moved in with his father.
"People wonder how you could support your dad after there was another woman in his life," Van Sant says. "He had so hurt your mother emotionally…"
"He was still my dad. My mom was still my mom. It was still family to me," Richie replies.
Wendy, away at college, sided with her mother and cut Kirk out of her life.
"I stopped talking to him because he was cheating on my mom," she says.
"He cancelled all of my credit cards and stopped paying my tuition," Wendy says. "I think he thought that I would talk to him if he would give me money, but I was doing what I thought was right, which was standing up for my mother. And no amount of money would've changed that."
Jennifer filed for divorce, but was also determined to go after Kirk's lover, slapping her with an unusual "alienation of affection" lawsuit.
Jennifer was suing Tondja Colvin for stealing her man.
"It was a suit against the other woman," Gould explains. "She felt like this woman had come in… not only ruined Jennifer's life, but was going to ruin her children's lives too."
If Jennifer had wanted to get under Kirk's skin by filing that lawsuit, it worked.
"I know that he really wanted the alienation of affection suit to disappear," says Wendy. She also says that Kirk kept pressuring her mother to drop the suit.
"When your father is upset, is he a menacing man?" Van Sant asks Wendy. "Very scary. Very scary," she replies.
Jennifer began to take precautions. Alone in her big house, she bought Mace and at night, she sealed herself off in her bedroom with a baseball bat, an extra cell phone and a lock on the bedroom door.
What was she afraid of? According to Anne, "Jennifer was afraid that he was gonna hurt her or kill her… She was afraid of him blowing up and losing control."
Two years later, Wendy Turner tells a spellbound courtroom the exact words spoken by Kirk that made her mother cringe with fear: "She told me that he said that 'there was more than one way to end a marriage.' She thought that he was gonna try and kill her."
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