Victim suffered from psychosis, doctor testifies

A Ramona woman who was killed in 2005 and buried in her backyard had experienced a significant change in personality and was diagnosed as suffering from methamphetamine psychosis by a doctor and nurse who treated her, according to testimony heard last week in her husband’s murder trial.

Defense witnesses spoke about the unusual change in personality by Toby Turner, 42, that included depression, anxiety, paranoia, shaking, screaming, and inappropriate anger.

The trial of Keith Harold Turner, 57, of Ramona, went into its third week in El Cajon Superior Court after the prosecution rested its case.

Keith Turner admitted to strangling his wife when he was questioned by sheriff’s deputies after his wife’s skeletal remains were dug up on Nov. 9, 2007, in the back yard of their home at 16114 Oak Springs Drive.

Her son, Sean Turner, 25, testified he saw his stepfather’s foot on his mother’s neck in September 2007, and saw his stepfather bury her the next day.

Dawn Newcomb, a nurse, testified she last saw Toby Turner in August, 2005. She said Turner was shaking uncontrollably and her teeth were chattering as a result of withdrawal from methamphetamine. She told a 10-woman, two man jury that she and another nurse had to hold her to keep her from falling off the examination table.

Newcomb said a drug test showed she had used methamphetamine.

Newcomb said Toby Turner was initially mute when she saw the doctor and had sores on her body that were related to drug use. The nurse said Toby Turner had “bleached her hair and cut it real close.”

Newcomb said Toby Turner had been a patient of Dr. Terrance Mulvany for 17 years and recited how she was before she started using methamphetamine.  

“She was a very wonderful mother,” recalled Newcomb.

“She was a very pleasant young woman,” said Dr. Mulvany, but added he noted a big change in her in September 2004, when he suspected she started using meth.

He explained that Toby Turner was initially like the mother in “Little House on the Prairie,” and changed to someone in the Goth lifestyle in 2004.

Her physician said she was diagnosed as suffering from “methamphetamine psychosis” and she was committed to mental hospital for 72 hours in 2004. Mulvany testified Toby Turner always denied using meth, but a drug test for meth showed she had used it.

Mulvany said her husband was usually “quite supportive and helpful” to his wife, saying “he seemed to be a caring husband. He stood by her.”

He said that in a visit on Aug. 17, 2005, about a month before her death, Toby Turner initially seemed “almost catatonic” when her husband brought her “unwillingly” to see him. He added that in the same visit she started “screaming, ranting, and raving.”

Mulvany said she blamed the doctor for her loss of her job at a store and for her son’s diabetes. He said Keith Turner “tried to calm her down, and did seem to soothe her a bit.”

“Like an alcoholic, you can’t always make someone do something. There’s not a lot I can do or anyone can do if the patient isn’t willing (to stop using drugs),” said Mulvany.

The apparent purpose of the derogatory testimony about Toby Turner by defense attorney Tom Warwick is to show that the victim may not have been rational when she interacted with her husband for the last time. Jurors heard testimony from her son that he heard sounds of dishes breaking and other crashes before he peered into the garage and saw her on the floor.

Warwick said in his opening statement that Turner should not be convicted of murder, but he has not said if he is seeking a verdict of manslaughter or an outright acquittal.

The victim’s sister, Rebecca Cosen, a teacher in Pacific Beach, testified she had little contact with Toby Turner in her final years.

Cosen recalled hearing Keith Turner mention that she had used methamphetamine, and that it had dramatically changed her personality.

Cosen testified Keith Turner called her within two weeks of her disappearance and said she had left him. “He said they had an argument and she got angry and left. He said she was going to change her name and there was no way of finding her,” said her sister.

“He said he missed her,” said Cosen.

Cosen said Keith Turner told her that the drug use caused her to be violent.

“She didn’t look like the same person. She didn’t act like the same person,” said Cosen, quoting Keith Turner.

“Can Sean be trusted?” asked Warwick.

“I don’t believe so,” replied Cosen.

Sean Turner has testified he didn’t tell authorities about the circumstances of his mother’s death because he didn’t think he would be believed. He was on probation for vehicular misdemeanor manslaughter involving the death of a teen-age girl in his car and had also used methamphetamine.

Mary Swanson, a friend of Toby Turner, testified she noticed a change in her personality and noticed she became angry and forgetful.

Swanson said Toby Turner had been diagnosed as manic-depressive, but “she said she didn’t need help.”

“Keith was very passive. When she got angry with him, he would just walk away. She was very controlling. She treated Keith as a child,” said Swanson.

“Did she love him?” asked Warwick.

“No. ... He loved her very much,” replied Swanson.

The trial will continue after the Thanksgiving recess. Turner remains in the downtown central jail on $2 million bail.

   
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