Arrests have finally been made in the decades-old cold case of Justin Turner – a South Carolina boy who appeared to have gone missing between his front door and the school bus stop in rural Berkeley County thirty-five years ago. Justin’s father Victor Turner and step-mother Megan Turner (f.k.a. Pamela Turner) were arrested in Cross Hill, South Carolina this week and charged with murder.
This isn’t the first time Megan Turner has been charged in connection with her step-son’s death. Nine months after Justin was killed, she was arrested and charged with his murder. Authorities lacked the evidence for a successful prosecution, however, and she was released in 1990.
The Turners relocated before a coroner’s inquest could be convened – a move viewed by some in law enforcement as an attempt to evade further questioning.
Justin Turner’s saga began on a March morning in 1989 when he did not get on the school bus. At first, his friends suspected the five-year-old boy must be staying home sick. That theory was undone, however, when the bus returned to the neighborhood that afternoon and Justin’s step-mother was standing at the end of the driveway to retrieve him – as was her habit.
“If Justin wasn’t sick, where was he? And why did he miss school?” the youngster’s puzzled friends wondered.
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They never saw Justin again – but they did not forget him …
Years later, one of Justin’s friends who was on the bus that day contacted us and suggested we include his story as part of our Unsolved Carolinas series. Upon making contact with the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) in September, however, we were asked to hold off on such a report because of new developments in the case.
We continued to make inquiries, but did hold off on publishing any of our findings.
Turner’s disappearance more than three decades ago sparked a three-day search that centered on the Horseshoe Drive residence of his father and step-mother. While police did their best to locate the missing boy, his friends wondered why he ran away – and how long it would be before he returned. They had not yet turned their thoughts to fears over kidnapping – or murder – but that would quickly change.
On the third day of the search, Victor Turner found his son’s body in a storage compartment of a travel camper in the family’s yard. Although the camper had previously been searched by law enforcement, those prior attempts did not reveal his location. The scenario prompted speculation that Justin’s body had been placed in a cabinet in the kitchen area after the search was well underway.
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Justin’s mother, Vivian Elaine Pace, and her family were not allowed on the property to assist in the search for her child. This fueled rumors and speculation – but it wasn’t the only factor hindering the investigation.
There was an alleged sighting of Justin by a child – however this young witness was unable to withstand necessary questioning. Being so traumatized by whatever it was they observed that day, the child was left in need of perpetual psychiatric care.
Forensic evidence revealed Justin was strangled – and sexually assaulted – prior to his death. There was no evidence suggesting he had been the subject of ongoing abuse or mistreatment, however.
Berkeley County coroner William Smith held an inquest into Turner’s death – but collapsed on the second day and had to receive emergency medical care. Upon his recovery, Smith called a second inquest. The boy’s father and step-mother, having moved away, had to be located and summoned to attend. When they took the stand, they asserted their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination – refusing to speak on the advice of their attorney.
The long-awaited arrests came too late to comfort Justin’s mother, who died twenty years ago according to a Facebook page created in the young boy’s memory. Just before he went missing, in their nightly phone call, Justin told his mother he wanted to tell her a secret when she picked him up that weekend. This untold secret remained on her mind for the rest of her life – and she couldn’t help but wonder if it and his murder were somehow connected.
What was the secret? Unsubstantiated rumors alluded to an alleged dalliance between Megan Turner and someone with ties to law enforcement. While the basis for the rumor is unknown, it became part of the story as sleuths suggested this was what Justin wanted to tell his mother – and what may have led to his death. They also suggested such a relationship may have stalled the investigation years ago – or worse.
Following the inquest and her release from jail, Pamela Turner changed her name to Megan Renee Turner – the name she was using when she was arrested on January 9, 2024 along with Justin’s father.
The Turners are scheduled for a first court appearance in Berkeley County on March 15, 2024. Their cases will be tried by the office of S.C. ninth circuit solicitor Scarlett Wilson.
As with anyone accused of committing any crime, the Turners are considered innocent until proven guilty by our criminal justice system – or until such time as they may wish to enter some form of allocution in connection with a plea agreement with prosecutors related to any of the charges that may be filed against them.
Unsolved Carolinas – sponsored by our friends at Bamberg Legal – is a series by FITSNews devoted to shining a spotlight on cases which have fallen off the front page. We hope to tell the stories of those individuals who are seeking answers and justice on behalf of their lost loved ones. We will dive deeper into their stories, get to know them through their families and friends and hopefully help find answers for those they have left behind.
In every unsolved case, someone out there could know something that provides a missing link – a critical clue that could bring peace to a family in pain and help them write the next chapter of their stories (even if it is the final chapter). If you know someone who is missing – or has been a victim of an unsolved homicide – email their story to email@example.com.
The more stories we share, the more hope we can spread …
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Callie Lyons is a journalist, researcher, and author whose investigative work can be found in media outlets, publications, and documentaries all over the world – most recently in the Parisian newspaper Le Monde and a German documentary for ProSieben. Lyons also appears in Citizen Sleuth – a 2023 documentary exploring the genre of true crime.
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