Man gets 30 years for 1999 East End slaying
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A man whose DNA linked him to the 1999 murder of a Charleston woman more than a decade later was sentenced Thursday to 30 years in prison.
Before hearing how much time he'd spend in prison for the death of Terry Clark, Daniel Richard Turner told Kanawha Circuit Judge James Stucky that he always knew that, one day, he'd have to pay for her murder.
"I prayed about it a long time; it never left my mind," Turner, 46, said. "I guess I couldn't bring myself to say someone needs to call the law because I've murdered someone."
Last month, Turner pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Clark, 41. Police found her strangled and nude on the side of U.S. 119 just outside Walton, in Roane County.
The judge gave Turner credit for the 146 days he already had served in jail after being charged. He has been in jail in Tennessee since 2004 on federal drug and weapons charges.
The judge said Turner's murder sentence could run at the same time as his federal sentence.
After the sentencing, Clark's family members said they felt some comfort in knowing who had killed her, even 14 years later.
"We didn't think it would ever be solved," said Sally Burger, Clark's first cousin.
Charleston police Lt. Steve Cooper also said he had had doubts over the years about the case. He remembered getting the call when Clark's body was found.
"As the years went on, you begin to worry -- I worried this would be one that we never solved," Cooper said after the sentencing.
Kanawha County Assistant Prosecutor Reagan Whitmyer read the judge a letter from Clark's stepmother, Ruth Clark, which said she watched Clark's father suffer over the years and eventually die last year not knowing who killed his daughter.
"I now have closure in the death of my stepdaughter. I may have the mystery solved of who, and perhaps why, but that doesn't erase the last 15 years of agony, stress, heartbreak, to name a few of the emotional areas I, along with her father, Paul Clark, have suffered," Whitmyer read, her voice sometimes trembling.
"In those 13 years, I watched my husband go through many nights and days of pure hell, not knowing why or who had murdered his daughter."
Turner's DNA was taken five times since 1999. His attorney, Kanawha County Chief Public Defender George Castelle, told the judge that Turner should be commended for never denying the crime when first asked by detectives.
"I got a copy of the letter Mrs. Clark wrote," Turner said, "and I'll probably keep it with me a long time."
After blood and semen collected during Clark's autopsy and at Clark's apartment, at 1528 Lewis St., were entered into the Combined DNA Indexing System after more than a decade, the system provided Turner's name.
Charleston police Sgt. Bobby Eggleton traveled to Memphis to talk to Turner in jail and Turner eventually told Eggleton that Clark's death was an accident.
Turner said he had gone to Clark's East End apartment to make a drug deal. Clark, who sometimes worked as a prostitute, according to a transcript of the interview, was in bed with Turner when a male and female rushed into the room.
A fight broke out and, at some point, Clark got involved in the altercation, hitting Turner on the back, shoulders and neck with a boot, he told police.
"[Clark] was hitting me with a shoe," Turner said, according to the transcript. Somehow, the shoestring "got around her throat because that's what made her finally settle down. She wouldn't stop hitting me with it so, somehow, I got it and wrapped it around her. It all happened so fast," he told Eggleton.
In a panic, Turner said, he grabbed his clothes, threw Clark over his shoulder, got in his truck and sped out of town. Turner admits he was high the night Clark was killed.
Turner said he drove for almost an hour until pulling over on a narrow shoulder of U.S. 119 near Walton. Eggleton said in a previous interview with the Gazette that Taylor dragged Clark from his vehicle and left her on the side of the road.
Turner had faced up to 40 years on the charge. He told the judge that he had turned his life around while he had been in jail.
"I know you're going to sentence me to a number of years today," he said, "but I want you to know, I'm going to use those years wisely."
Reach Kate White at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1723.