Jury Finds Man Guilty In Buried Wife Case

The jury reached a verdict Wednesday in the case of a man who killed his wife, then buried her in their back yard.

Deliberations began last week in the case of Keith Turner, 57, of Ramona. The jury had to decide if the slaying was murder, manslaughter or self-defense that caused Toby Turner's death. On Wednesday, a jury found Turner guilty of voluntary manslaughter.

Two jurors said after the verdict was read that they thought Keith Turner was a victim, too, and that they felt for him and for his daughters. They said they didn't believe stepson Sean Turner's testimony and said that in the end, they believed the defense claim that Keith was pushed to a breaking point. "We didn't think he had any intent or malice or planned it beforehand or anything.  We felt he had just finally taken this for so long he just snapped," said Jury Foreperson Suzie McLeod. “I totally discounted the sons testimony, I didn't believe a word he said."

Keith Turner could be sentenced to as much as 11 years in prison, but defense attorney Tom Warwick said that at least six of the jurors came up to him, saying they would write letters to the judge in favor of probation.

"There were factors involved clearly that convinced the jury that this was less than murder, like the heat of passion because of what was happening that day and what had let up to the day," said Deputy District Attorney Kurt Mechals.

The verdict was scheduled to be read at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday but was delayed. The reading was then set for 2 p.m after one of the 12 jurors did not return from lunch. The judge told the court the juror was getting an oil change during the lunch recess and the job wasn't finished in time for the juror to return.

Turner's two daughters who earlier testified on his behalf were in the courtroom for the verdict, but Turner's stepson, Sean Turner, who testified against him, was not.

”The jury did what they felt was right and I looked in each of their eyes and I think you got an honest, fair and well thought out verdict," said Defense Attorney Tom Warwick.

Keith Turner buried his wife in a shallow grave beside a backyard pond in September 2005. Police said he moved his wife's skeletal remains to a deeper grave at the side of his Oak Springs Drive home as he prepared to sell the house in November 2007.

Sean Turner, Turner's stepson, testified that he witnessed the killing. Both the defense and the prosecution have admitted that he has problems with credibility.

The prosecutor argued that although there is no physical evidence, Turner was guilty  "beyond a reasonable doubt."

"There's direct evidence of the cause of death. That evidence doesn't come from Toby's skeleton, that direct evidence comes from the people who were there," said prosecutor Kurt Mechals. "Sean Turner was there and the defendant was there, along with Toby Turner and obviously she's not available to come in and tell you what happened, so the task falls to the other two."

Defense attorney Tom Warwick said Toby Turner was addicted to meth, that she was a woman whose friends and family could no longer support her, and whose husband was at a breaking point.

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