Father and step-mother arrested for 1989 murder of 5-year-old son, Justin Lee Turner

January 16, 2024

The following post contains mention of child abuse and murder of a child. Reader discretion is advised. 

 

Two arrests have been made this month in the long-unsolved case of murdered five-year-old Justin Lee Turner, who was found dead in his family's camper in South Carolina in the late eighties.

Victor Lee Turner and his wife Megan Turner (previously known as “Pamela Turner”) were arrested at their residence in Cross Hill earlier this month and charged with murder in connection with the death of the child. They were transported for detainment to the Hill-Finklea Detention Center.

 

Justin went missing for two days in early March 1989, before he was found on March 5, strangled to death in a small cabinet in the Turners campervan, which was stationed outside the family home.

A WCBD news segment covering the search and recovery of Justin's body, depicts a misty March morning in 1989, police cruisers and deputies congregating with a group of volunteers discussing which areas to search and who to report to. Law enforcement and volunteers are shown checking under benches, in wooded areas, and in metal sheds, before the Turner’s campervan is finally approached.

Victor Lee Turner, clad in a cap and checkered shirt, is seen reaching into the campervan, before grimacing, turning around, and with a distressed voice saying: “Something’s in there.”

The cameras are then turned off before resuming, showing reserves asking, “where’s he at?” and searching inside the unit, while Victor Lee Turner sits down, appearing distressed and inconsolable.

When later asked about the discovery of the body, Victor Turner told officers that he didn’t touch the child, and that he just “knew something was wrong.”

Affidavits state that the five-year-old had been sexually assaulted and strangled to death, with the report stating: “(He) died of asphyxiation due to strangulation by ligature a short time after consuming his last meal.”

Newspapers reported that officers had searched the camper previously, but had not discovered the victim, whose body was reportedly concealed within a tiny compartment under a seat. Berkley County Sheriff M. C. Cannon said in a statement that an object may have been used in the assault.

The State Newspaper reported several days later that when Justin was found there was beads of sweat on his head, leading investigators to believe that the victim may have "been refrigerated for a short time" before being moved to the camper.

They also reported that hairs were found clasped in his hand.

The medical examiner determined that the child had been killed elsewhere before being moved to the camper, which was reportedly just a few feet from the home.

Those following the case in the news were suspicious that the Turners did not search the campervan before reporting the child missing.

At the time of his death, Justin lived with his father, Victor Turner, and his stepmother, Pamela Turner. Pamela Turner was the last person to see Justin alive.

Pamela allegedly told investigators that Justin “never got off the school bus,” on March 3rd, despite witnesses saying that Justin did not get on the school bus that day, nor did he attend school.

Justin would usually take the school bus, which routinely pulled up to the bus stop around 100 yards from his home and took him to kindergarten. None of the neighbours saw the child walk to the bus stop that day.   Pamela Turner claimed she was in the shower when the child left, and said Victor was at work.

 

News reports at the time discussed Pamela Turner's reaction to Justin's death, as well as the relationship between her and her stepson. While Mrs. Turner's own parents said she had a good relationship with the child, other relatives accused her of showing no emotion towards TV news covering Justin's murder and alleged that she had laughed as she watched news segments covering the story and "called them stupid."

When asked about the accusations she reportedly said the victim’s relatives were conspiring along with law-enforcement to frame her for the child’s murder.

An article from The Item, on 20 Dec 1989, details that due to the Turners moving to a different address following the discovery of Justin Turner's body, law enforcement agents were not able to reach them to serve subpoenas to attend inquests and that they went on to refuse to testify during a later inquest.

The Turner’s lawyers would later reveal that they were both suspects in the case. Investigators later admitted that there was evidence the scene was staged, and that although they suspected Pamela Turner, there simply wasn’t enough evidence.

The case was reopened in April 2021 and reviewed by the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Unit using modern technology unavailable at the time of the murder. Physical evidence, which was collected from the crime scene and preserved, was sent to The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division’s forensic lab (SLED) , as well as to forensic pathologists, for analysis. The new investigation led to recent arrests. A ligature found in the Turners home correlated, both chemically and physically, to the wounds around the victim's neck. Fibres from both the victim and ligature were tested as part of the recent investigation.

Victor Turner, 69, and Megan Turner, (previously Pamela), 63, are currently being held at Hill-Finklea Detention Center in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, on murder charges. At the time of writing no bond has been set and it is unclear if either have retained lawyers.

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