A key witness in the recent murder trial of a Ramona man convicted of killing his wife and burying her in the backyard died at the age of 25 on Sunday.
Sean Christopher Turner was found unresponsive in his bed at his grandmother’s home in National City, and was declared dead, according to the medical examiner’s office on Monday. NBC Channel 7/39 reported his death was due to a drug overdose, but that could not be confirmed at press time.
Sean Turner testified in the November trial of his stepfather, Keith Harold Turner, 57, who was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the 2005 death of his wife, Toby Turner, 42. Jurors acquitted him of first and second-degree murder, and he will be sentenced on Jan. 23 in El Cajon Superior Court.
Sean Turner had diabetes and had trouble walking. He testified from a wheelchair in February 2008 at his stepfather’s preliminary hearing. He became ill during that hearing, and was given some orange juice to drink.
His testimony was videotaped by technicians hired by the District Attorney’s office. Videotaping witnesses usually occur if they are elderly or suffering from a terminal illness, or if they might be unavailable at a later trial.
Sean Turner didn’t need a wheelchair at the trial, but did use a cane. He had other medical problems and he acknowledged that in the past he used methamphetamine. He was given immunity from prosecution.
Sean Turner testified he heard the sound of dishes crashing in the garage and peeked inside. He said he saw Keith Turner’s foot on his mother’s neck, and she appeared to be dead. He testified his stepfather came out of the garage, hugged him, and said “she’s dead.”
He testified his stepfather asked him to help bury his mother, but he refused. He said he didn’t report the crime because he didn’t think he would be believed. He said he was on probation for misdemeanor manslaughter in the death of a teen-age girl in his car and acknowledged the use of methamphetamine.
Sean Turner moved out of Ramona two weeks after his mother’s death and he did not tell anyone what he had seen. He returned in 2007, and, after talking with his biological father, he reported the crime to sheriff’s deputies.
Deputies set up a phone call between Sean Turner and his stepfather. In the call, Keith Turner acknowledged the death of his wife.
Deputies went to interview him and Turner confessed to strangling his wife and showed them where she had been buried.
The skeletal remains were recovered from the backyard of the home at 16114 Oak Springs Drive.
Keith Turner’s attorney, Tom Warwick, argued that Toby Turner was mentally ill and also used methamphetamine. He sought an acquittal, but jurors found Keith Turner guilty of manslaughter. He faces a maximum term of 11 years in prison and remains in the downtown central jail without bail.