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European edition, Friday, May 18, 2007

BOLLING AIR FORCE BASE, D.C. — The parents of Airman 1st Class Ashley Turner, who was murdered in 2005 at a military base in Iceland, said Thursday they are outraged at the speed with which the jury returned a “not guilty” verdict to her alleged attacker.

Eight Air Force officers and six enlisted members declared Airman Calvin Eugene Hill not guilty of murder just “five hours and 11 minutes” after the judge sent them into seclusion to discuss the evidence accumulated over two the years it has taken for the case to come to trial, Ashley’s mother Lisa Turner said in a telephone interview Thursday.

“They just wanted to get it done and get out of there,” Turner said. “It was a travesty of justice.”

“I think the jury was concerned about getting home in time to avoid rush-hour traffic,” Larry Turner, who is divorced from Lisa, said in a separate telephone interview Thursday.

“It’s almost comical, for a case of this gravity, for them to make a decision in that short a time,” Larry Turner said. “It was like an insult: an insult to the court system, an insult to the prosecution and an insult to us.”

Hill, 21, of Warren, Ohio, was accused of killing Turner at the Naval Air Station Keflavik, Iceland, on Aug. 14, 2005.

The slaying occurred eight days before Turner, 20, of Frederick, Md., was to testify against Hill for allegedly stealing her ATM card and personal identification number and withdrawing about $2,700 from her bank account.

If the jury had found Hill guilty of first-degree, or premeditated, murder, he could have faced the death penalty. Instead, Hill went through a pre-sentencing hearing Thursday for charges he had already pleaded guilty to.

Those included larceny/wrongful appropriation for taking the money from Turner’s bank account, making false official statements and being absent without leave.

Throughout the trial, the Turner family had made no secret of the fact that they believed Hill had killed their daughter.

Now that Hill has been acquitted of those charges, “there’s [going to be] a murderer on our streets,” Lisa Turner said.

Larry Turner agreed.

“I feel you have a killer among you now,” he said.

Larry Turner, a former enlisted sailor, said “we got kicked in the teeth yesterday” and that in retrospect, he wishes that he had made a scene when the “not guilty” verdict was read in court.

“I should have gotten up, yelled, screamed, pointed at the accused,” he said. “But I thought [at the time], ‘I’m going to show respect for our system of justice, which I still believe in, and show respect for my daughter.’”

Lisa Turner said she is considering “moving to another country,” because she has “I’m disappointed with the United States at this point.”

She said she also is angry with the Air Force, “who failed Ashley twice — “once, for leaving her in the same dormitory with Hill before the court-martial for the ATM theft charges, and now for failing to find Hill guilty of her daughter’s murder.

“The jury panel has just killed her again,” Lisa Turner said.

Neither of the Turners said they blamed prosecutors.

The case went to trial April 25, preceded by almost two years of preliminary motions, witness interviews, and other events associated with building the case.

“The prosecution team tried the case with integrity, poise, and kept us informed every step of the way,” Larry Turner said.

Instead, the Turners blamed the jury for what Larry said was “a rush decision” and the inability “to make the tough decision.”

The jury “needed to dig into [the case] and investigate it a little more,” before returning a verdict, Lisa Turner said.

Lisa Turner said the family hasn’t ruled out bringing a civil suit against Hill, but Larry Turner said that while that might happen, it isn’t likely. Civil suits, he said, “are about money, and “I don’t want money. I want justice.”

Hill “already has money problems,” Larry Turner said, and a civil suit will just mean “dragging us through the grinder again, and you can’t get blood from a turnip.”

For the time being, Larry Turner said, “it’s over. It’s done. There’s nothing we can do. My daughter’s dead, and the killer’s been acquitted.”

One thought comforts him, Larry Turner said: “The final decision isn’t in yet. When [Hill] dies and goes before God, he won’t have a defense counsel. The prosecutor will be God.”

“I have to have faith that will happen,” he said. “Otherwise, what’s the point?”

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