Mom of former SEAL trainee convicted of murder hopes film will free son

The mother of a former Navy SEAL trainee whose murder conviction has vexed several judges says she hopes a documentary about the case will lead to a pardon.

“My son has served 19 years in prison for a crime he did not commit,” said Linda Summitt. “And he needs to come home.”

The documentary, “Target of Opportunity,” is scheduled for a 7 p.m. showing at the Naro on Norfolk’s Colley Avenue Thursday. It explores the case of Dusty Turner whose murder conviction has been challenged several times in the past several years.

His mother hopes the film will generate calls to Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s office, leading to a pardon. It’s the only hope left for Turner’s freedom.

In 1995, Turner was 20 and in the final stages of SEAL training. While out at a bar with his swim buddy Billy Joe Brown, he met a vacationing college student. In his car parked outside, Turner and Jennifer Evans talked. Then Brown, drunk and angry, climbed into the car. In moments, Evans was dead.

What happened next doomed Turner to a murder conviction, even though he says it was Brown who killed the student. Turner drove away with the corpse in the car. He and Brown dumped the body in Newport News. They told no one. Police and federal agents questioned them at least three times. Each time, Turner lied, and said he knew nothing about what happened. Eight days later, when he failed a lie-detector test, he confessed. He led police to the body. And upon hearing Turner had broken, Brown also confessed.

But both sailors blamed each other. Police and prosecutors couldn’t prove whose hands caused the death, so they used a Virginia law that says if two people participate in a murder, then they’re both guilty. Juries agreed and sent the men to prison for virtual life sentences.

Years later, Brown confessed that he alone was the killer, that Turner only helped hide the body and cover up the crime. Turner’s mother says her son’s actions that night were awful. But, he should’ve faced a misdemeanor for helping, not a prison sentence for murder.

In a series of hearings, several judges agreed with her. But others said the conviction should stand.

That legal rollercoaster “was like a thousand deaths,” she said.

The final appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court kept Turner locked up.

The mother from Indiana has spent more money to free her son than she can count. The stress she says also made her husband sick. He died two years ago. She admits she’s worn and weary from this fight, but says she’s not giving  up.

“As long as I am alive and he is in prison, we’ll just keep fighting,” she said.

This is a website created by Turner’s supporters: www.freedusty.org. The site has more information on the documentary.

 

9 comments

  • In Dog We Trust

    He should have been convicted of manslaughter at the least, regardless. If the story is true, he sat by and watched his buddy kill an innocent woman. He doesn’t deserve anything less than he is getting. His mother is disillusioned. I feel bad for her, but her son is not innocent in the least. If my child had committed or had been involved in a crime like that, he would rot in jail.

    • big dan

      So if u and ur son are riding in a car and he for instance pulls a gun and shoots his girlfriend in ur car, should u be convicted of murder and a life sentence?????

      • Hm.

        Well, presumably, “u” would immediately do the honest thing and go to the police to report the crime the way it happened….or have tried to do something to prevent it happening in the first place, instead of driving her body somewhere and helping “ur” son to hide it, right? Sorry, but his actions were not that of a completely innocent party. I think he deserves jail time, though perhaps not a life sentence. He should have done the honest thing and come clean, if he was truly not guilty of the crime.

  • Resident

    So he lied over and over until he failed a lie detector test.
    Hey Ms. Summit, at least you can visit your son, he is alive, Why don’t you contact Jennifer Evans parents and ask them when was the last time they talked to thier daughter.

  • JESSICA

    I BELIEVE HE SHOULD ROTE IN JAIL. HE WAS A SEALFOR PROTECTING THIS COUNTRY, SHOULD OF HAD MORE SENSE IN WHAT HE WAS DOING. TUNER DOES NOT DESERVE TO BE FREE FOR KILLING SOMEONE ELSE CHILD. EVEN IF HE DIDNT KILL HER HE STILL WAS ACCCOMPLISS TO THE MURDER. UR SON WILL B FINE IN JAIL, HAVE FOOD, A BED, AND EB ALIVE. HOW DO U THINK THE GIRLS FAMILY FEELS, IM SURE THEY WANT THEIR DAUGHTER HOME. JUST MY OPINION IF THEY, IF THEY LET HIM OUT THERE IS SOMETHING SERIOUSLY WRONG WITH THIS COUNTRY.

    • Hm.

      Jessica, I do respect your opinion, but just an FYI-when you type all in caps, it is considered offensive because it is the online equivalent of yelling.

  • Theresa Smith

    he watched this young girl be murdered at the hands of his ‘swim buddy’, drove her body for at least 45 minutes through three different jurisdictions, then buried her body in a city park in Newport News. Real nice kid, wasn’t he? His mom should be ashamed at raising such a delightful child. I say keep him in jail.

  • cpb

    All of you who don’t understand SEAL training should learn about the case BEFORE YOU STATE DUSTY SHOULD ‘ROT IN PRISON’ . it is shameful you think a man should be locked up for a crime he did not commit. READ THE FACTS OF THE CASE- NOT THE SPIN. Why would people who know nothing about the facts of the case, be so hateful and uninformed? ANYONE who meets dusty knows he never meant to harm Jennifer and was in shock when Billy Brown murdered her. He was in shock and did what the murderer tolds him to do -he was afraid.EVERYONE knew Billy was a drug abusing psychopath SHAME ON YOU WHO WRITE ABOUT SOMETHING THEY KNOW NOTHING ABOUT .

  • theresa

    We all know a lot about the facts of this case. It was front page news for many weeks in southeast Virginia. He may not have actually murdered Jennifer Evans, I don’t know but…he is definitely guilty of being an accessory and of helping to hide evidence. Shock or not ; decent people don’t watch innocent people being murdered and then cover up the evidence and dumping innocent people in the woods. A decent, person would have sought help for the victim instead of letting her body rot in the woods for eight days. Decent people wouldn’t even treat a dog like this.

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