Keith Harold Turner told sheriff’s deputies his wife accidentally tripped and fell to the floor during an argument and he used that opportunity to strangle her before burying her in the backyard, according to a videotape that was played to the jury when his murder trial opened on Nov. 6.
Turner, 57, of Ramona, is accused of killing Toby Turner, 42, in Sept., 2005. Her skeletal remains were found on Nov. 9, 2007, after Turner’s stepson returned to Ramona and told deputies he saw Keith Turner burying his mother in the backyard at 16114 Oak Springs Drive.
Turner’s attorney, Tom Warwick, told jurors Toby Turner was mentally ill and went into rages in which she destroyed dishes and set a couch on fire the day before she died. Warwick said Toby Turner had affairs with other men and made false accusations.
“How did this death occur, and what was it?” said Warwick during his opening statement.
Warwick did not specify what lesser charge he would seek in a verdict, such as voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.
Sheriff’s Detective Angela Tsuida told the 10-woman, two-man jury that Keith Turner filed a missing person’s report on his wife on Oct. 6, 2005. Turner had told deputies and his daughters that his wife suddenly took off, even though she left behind her wallet and car.
When Sean Turner, 25, returned to Ramona a year ago, he told deputies he heard his mother and Turner argue in the garage. He peeked into the garage and saw Turner’s foot on his mother’s neck on the floor, said Deputy District Attorney Kurt Mechals in his opening statement.
Sean Turner was serving a sentence of house arrest at the time for misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter in the death of a teen-age girl who was a passenger in his car. Mechals said Sean Turner said he didn’t think law enforcement would believe him if he reported what he saw and he felt threatened by his stepfather. He moved to San Francisco two weeks later.
Tsuida told the jury and El Cajon Superior Court Judge William McGrath they had Sean Turner make a “pre-text phone call” to his stepfather which was recorded. Keith Turner acknowledged to Sean that he killed his mother.
Mechals told jurors that Keith Turner asked his stepson in the phone call not to notify authorities about killing his wife, saying “that would end my life, too.”
Tsuida described the defendant as “very cooperative” and he offered to show them where he buried the body. The victim was buried twice, as Keith Turner said in the videotape. The first burial was shallow and beside a cement pond, and the second burial in 2007 was deeper and near a bathroom window.
“He was planning to sell the house and move to Arizona and didn’t want the new owners to discover the remains, the bones,” said Tsuida.
Deputies asked Keith Turner in the videotape why he didn’t notify deputies of her injury after she fell.
“I thought it looked bad,” said Turner, adding, “I wish it had never happened.”
“She was screaming at me. Out of this world stuff. She was in ‘La La Land’” said Turner on tape.
When they asked him why he didn’t divorce her, Turner replied that she didn’t want to divorce and “it wouldn’t make any difference.”
“I’d still be stuck with her. I was scared she wouldn’t go away. I felt responsible for her,” said the defendant on the videotape.
Warwick said Toby Turner began using methamphetamine after being introduced to the drug by her son, Sean Turner. Warwick described the stepson as “a drug user who lies all the time.”
Warwick said Toby Turner treated her husband “like a lesser human being” and wouldn’t permit him to sleep in their bed because she thought he was “dirty.” Warwick said Keith Turner slept on the floor and his wife would not permit him to sleep on the sofa.
Warwick said Keith Turner was a passive person in general. He said the victim constantly told him “it’s your fault” about everything.
Until his arrest, Turner worked for a utility company.
Sean Turner is expected to testify this week. Because of the Veterans Day holiday on Tuesday, the trial was also recessed Monday.
Keith Turner remains in the downtown central jail on $2 million bail.