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In 1989, a distraught father was filmed finding the body of his 5-year-old son. He's now accused in the boy's murder.

A South Carolina man who was seen crying on TV upon finding his dead son's body during the filming of a harrowing 1989 news broadcast has now been charged in the boy's killing, authorities announced this week. Victor Lee Turner and Megan R. Turner, the child's stepmother, were both arrested Wednesday at their home in Cross Hill, and charged with murder.

The body of 5-year-old Justin Lee Turner was found in a camper days after his father and stepmother reported him missing. Berkeley County Sheriff's Office via WCSC

The couple's 5-year-old son, Justin Turner, was found dead on March 5, 1989, inside of a cabinet in his family's small camper, which at the time was parked near their home. After police officers and community members launched an extensive search for the boy reported missing two days earlier, it was his father who discovered the body. Footage shows Victor Turner opening the doors to the family camper, stepping inside and, distraught, backing out of the vehicle while telling the search crew, "My son's in there." The archived footage was part of a news segment filmed by reporters at WCBD-TV, an NBC affiliate station based Charleston.

It has been more than three decades since Justin Turner's body was found, but investigators were only able to make headway in the cold case after reopening it in 2021, the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office said in a news release. The office said it has a unit that reviews old cold cases "for new information or the application of new technology" that may help to solve them. In this instance, detectives reviewed evidence collected during the autopsy, and at the scene where the child's body was discovered, and submitted it for forensic tests and analysis. That led to the arrests of Victor Turner and Megan Turner, who previously went by the name Pamela Turner, according to the sheriff's office.

 "We have dedicated detectives who are committed to reviewing and investigating criminal cases where factors have prevented a timely resolution of justice," Berkeley County Sheriff Duane Lewis said in a statement. "These detectives have worked hard to be sure that the life of Justin Lee Turner is remembered and that his murderers are brought to justice."

Authorities alleged in court documents released Wednesday that the boy was strangled with a ligature on or around the early morning hours of March 3, 1989, CBS affiliate WCSC reported, citing the documents.  His official cause of death was strangulation, and a ligature suspected to be the murder weapon was found at the Turner's home. It matched ligature marks on the boy's body, and fibers on it were consistent with his shirt collar material.

Investigators believe Justin Turner's body was hidden inside of the camper "a short time" after his death, and court documents included a forensic pathologist's report that suggested the boy died "near the time he was last seen alive," according to WCSC. 

Sheriff's deputies had gone to the Turner's home on the afternoon of March 3, when the child's parents told them that their son never returned home from school. However, witnesses claimed that Justin Turner did not get on the bus to go to school that day and was marked absent from classes.

"He never got on that bus. He never got on that bus because he was dead inside that house," Sheriff Duane Lewis said Wednesday during a briefing, WCSC reported. "I can't think of a more tragic, horrendous murder. A 5-year-old boy."

The warrant for the Turners' arrests said Megan Turner had claimed she did not see her son leave home that day to get on the bus, like she normally did, because she was taking a shower. She told law enforcement that the boy was last seen alive earlier in the morning before he left, and that they had argued.

"[She] provided misinformation to investigators about her specific whereabouts on the morning of Friday, March 3, 1989, and provided inconsistent information about her activities," the warrant said, according to WCSC. It also pointed to inconsistencies in Victor Turner's behavior, especially in the filmed sequence where he found his son's body. 

Berkeley County Sheriff's Office

"Rather than react to finding his son and personally checking for any indication of life whatsoever, [Victor Turner] instead backed out of the camper commenting, 'He's in there, my son is in there. Somebody's hurt him,'" the warrant said. Earlier, a witness said they overheard Victor Tuner asking officers what would happen if someone, potentially a family member, had killed or harmed his son.

Victor Turner and Megan Turner were brought back to Berkeley County after being arrested at their home in Cross Hill, which is about 160 miles away. They were being held there at the Hill-Finklea Detention Center.

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