Michael Turney: Arizona man accused of killing his stepdaughter walks out of jail after judge dismisses case

A judge in Phoenix has dismissed the case against an Arizona man accused of murdering his teenage stepdaughter.

Michael Turney was arrested in 2020 for Alissa Turney's presumed death

Alissa was a 17-year-old student at Paradise Valley High School when she disappeared in 2001. She was first reported as a runaway by her stepdad, telling police she left a note and was going to California, however, new information in Alissa's disappearance led to Micheal's arrest.

Alissa's body has not been found.

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July 18

After spending three years in jail, Michael Turney has walked out of jail as a free man, a day after a judge dismissed the murder case against him.

Turney was on trial for the presumed murder of his stepdaughter Alissa Turney, who hasn't been seen since she disappeared in 2001.

Prosecutors did not have DNA, blood, or crime scene evidence, and their case was built on circumstantial evidence. Phoenix Police cold case detectives and some of Turney’s own children testified against Turney, but ultimately, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sam Myers declared that there was not enough substantial evidence to convict Turney of second-degree murder.

"This has got to stop," said Turney. "We don’t throw Americans in a dungeon, without bail, torture them for three years. It’s just not what we do."

Turney was seen using a cane to help him walk. He described his time behind bars as torture.

"Life necessities being deprived, sleep and the whole nine yards," said Turney. "It’s horrible."

Now that charges against Turney have been dismissed, the 75-year-old plans to reveal his future plans during a primetime television interview. Should plans for that materialize, it would mark at least the second time Turney has appeared in such interviews. Prior to him being charged with the death of his stepdaughter, Turney took part in a nationally televised interview as part of a story on the mystery surrounding his stepdaughter's disappearance.

Turney also said he will never stop searching for Alissa or the person responsible for her death. He also said his feelings have not changed for those of Alissa’s siblings who testified against him during the trial.

"I love my children," said Turney.

July 17

A judge has granted a motion made by the defense to dismiss the case against Michael Turney.

The trial began one week ago, with several witnesses, including cold case detectives and Alissa's siblings testifying against their father. The judge said there was not enough substantial evidence to convict Turney of murdering Alissa. The judge also ordered that Turney be released.

Following the judge's ruling, Turney's attorney, Jamie Jackson, released a statement on Turney's behalf.

"He did want to say that he is happy that the judge saw it his way. He's excited that he'll be able to get out of custody. He is obviously still very concerned about the case and Alissa, and trying to find who actually killed her," said Jackson.

According to attorneys, the ruling is the equivalent of a ‘not guilty’ verdict, which means Turney cannot be charged for second degree murder again in the future for the same incident. Turney is expected to be released by July 18 at the latest.

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell also issued a statement on the judge's ruling. It reads:

"On May 17, 2001, Paradise Valley High School Junior Alissa Turney poked her head into her boyfriend’s woodshop class and said that her stepfather was taking her out of school early. This was the last time Alissa was heard from or seen by anyone. For more than 20 years, her family fought for justice and their perseverance is a testament to the love they had for Alissa. I am proud of the hard work by prosecutors and law enforcement on this case. While our office doesn’t agree with the Judge’s ruling today, we respect the decision of the court."

July 13

July 12

Video from May 16, 2001, the day before Alissa Turney went missing, shows that Michael Turney had surveillance cameras inside and outside of his home, and wiretapped phone calls. During a 2008 search, police found several hundred tape recordings, but no recording of the day Alissa disappeared. Turney addressed that in a television interview.

"Why didn't you hang onto those things that could've proven you're not to blame? The surveillance video from the day that Alissa disappeared, the audio recording of that phone call you said she made?"

Michael: "There was nothing on those tapes, they were told that."

Now-retired Detective Stuart Somershoe testified that family members and friends that were interviewed alluded to Alissa being upset about the way Turney treated her.

"Did you do anything sexual with your stepdaughter?"

Michael: "No, why would I do that? They have no proof whatsoever, other than rumors, innuendos and lies."

"If they have no proof that doesn't mean you didn't do it."

Michael: "Well again, there's only two people that can confirm whether I did it and one is me, the other is Alissa. Alissa's not here and I'm sitting here. All I can say, 'till hell freezes over, I didn't do a damn thing to my daughter."

"He denies having done anything to his daughter?"

"That's correct."

"But he's absolutely correct, the only people that would know would be her and him."

"That's correct." 

"And she's not here."


July 11

75-year-old Michael Turney has been charged with second-degree murder. One of Turney's sons testified about a conversation he had with his father, in which Turney said Alissa was dead.

Prosecutors say Michael Turney told police he picked up his stepdaughter, Alissa, early from Paradise Valley High School on May 17, 2001. Later the day, he called police to report she had run away, and he was the one who notified family and friends that Alissa was missing. 

In 2008, Phoenix Police began investigating Alissa's disappearance; her stepbrother, James Turney, was among those interviewed.

"Did you later ask your dad what happened to Alissa?"

James: "Yes."

"Did you father tell you that two people.. two electrical workers had killed her?"

James: "Yes.. from the union."

"In the 1980s, was your father at that time working?"

James: "Yes, he was an electrician."

What the jury will not hear, because of a previous court ruling, is a conversation James had with Alissa, in which she described interactions with Michael Turney, that made her extremely upset.

"Mr. James Turney told me the incident was that.. the defendant put his hand on Alissa's leg in the car. She said she ran out of the car screaming. She said they went on a walk, she became emotional, she told them her dad tried something and because of that, she wanted to get out of the house," said prosecutor Thomas Bailey.

The incidents happened in the weeks leading up to Alissa's disappearance. Prosecutors say they don't have any witnesses that can prove Alissa was being sexually abused by her stepfather.

On Wednesday, the jury is expected to hear from Phoenix Police detectives whose investigation led to the arrest of Michael Turney on murder charges, 19 years after Alissa disappeared.

July 10

Alissa’s half-sister testified about why she believes her own father is guilty.

Sarah Turney was 12 years old when her sister, Alissa, went missing.

Years later, police say, Sarah was integral in their investigation, which led to the arrest of her father, Michael Turney, on second-degree murder charges.

Sarah says she never stopped looking for her sister and as she got older, she says she realized her own father could be involved with Alissa’s disappearance.

Lawyer: "But she would have problems with comprehension and memory, correct?"

Sarah: "That's what I was told."

Lawyer: "That's what you told Detective Anderson."

Sarah: "That's what I was told."

Lawyer: "In any of those interviews, did you say, this is what my dad said? Yes or no?"

Sarah: "I was brainwashed to believe a certain thing about my sister by my father."

In 2008, phoenix police became suspicious and began actively investigating Alissa’s case. Sarah told the jury about a conversation she had with her father.

"He told me he'd tell me on his deathbed," Sarah said. "I met up with him at Starbucks in October 2017 to meet him face to face and finally get some answers."

Michael Turney was arrested in 2020. At the time, officials would not go into detail about the evidence that led to his arrest for Alissa’s murder.

Alissa’s former supervisor and childhood friend also testified this afternoon.

Later this week, the jury is expected to hear testimony from two Phoenix cold case detectives as their investigation led to Michael Turney’s arrest.

July 6

Prosecutor Vince Imbordino spoke during Turney's trial on this day.

"This defendant was the last person to see her alive," said Imbordino, referring to Alissa.

According to prosecutors, Turney picked up his stepdaughter from Paradise Valley High School early, and then went to their north phoenix home. Later that day, Turney called police to report Alissa had run away, leaving a note that said she was going to California.

In 2008, police began to suspect foul play in alissa’s disappearance, and searched the Turney’s former home.

"What they discovered was the defendant had literally hundreds of audio tapes of phone calls recorded over the years," said Imbordino. "Literally tubs of cassette tapes, tubs of VHS tapes."

Despite looking through several years worth of recordings, police did not find evidence of what happened.

"There's no video recording of them in the house that day. No video recording of them having an argument. No video recording of her leaving with her backpack. There's nothing from that day," said Imbordino.

Turney's attorney also spoke on this day.

"This trial is about Michael Turney finally getting his day in court," said Turney's attorney.

Defense lawyers claim Turney conducted his own searches for Alissa, even traveling to California to find her. Police found several firearms and homemade explosives in Turney’s home, and in 2010, he pleaded guilty to possessing more than two dozen pipe bombs, and did time in federal prison.

"There's no evidence," said Turney's attorney. "They can't tell you where Alissa died. They can't tell you how she died. Frankly, they can't even tell you if she died. They believe she did, but there's no proof."

Alissa’s younger sister, Sarah, who has used social media to help in the murder investigation, also took the stand. Sarah was about 12 years old at the time Alissa disappeared, and remembers walking into Alissa’s bedroom the day she went missing.

"I saw what looked like the contents of her backpack dumped on the ground," Sarah said. "On her dresser, I saw the note and her cell phone right there on the top."

Sarah recalled the handwritten note she found.

"I believe it said 'Dad and Sara, when you dropped me off at school today, I decided I was really going to California. Dad, that's why I took $300 from you. Sarah, you always said you wanted me gone. Now, you have it. Alissa," said Sarah.

The trial is expected to go on for the next two weeks.