Hunter, 14, Is Held in Slaying Of a Teacher in a Quiet Town

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Sunday, August 15, 1982
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Hunter, 14, Is Held in Slaying Of a Teacher in a Quiet Town

LYLE, Minn., Aug. 14 (AP) -- On its face, this tiny corn and soybean country town is peaceful. Trees and lawns are trimmed and flowers abound in the yards of well-painted houses. Grain elevators stand tall.

But until Thursday night many of Lyle's 550 residents were worried about the sniper slaying last week of a 33-year-old teacher, shot through her living room window as she worked on needlepoint.

It was the area's first killing in 31 years, and for a time people acted as though Sharon Turnbull's killer was still on the prowl. Then a 14-year-old hunter was jailed late Thursday in nearby Austin. He had been one of her students.

''It's scary, the way no one is out and around this week,'' Mavis Bell, a postal clerk, said Wednesday. ''Folks aren't out walking around or riding bicycles. They're staying home, day and night, men and women. Everybody's scared.'' Youth Confessed, Sheriff Says

The suspect, whose identity was not disclosed because of his youth, was accused last fall of spray-painting the teacher's car. The case was dismissed.

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In Austin, Sheriff Wayne Goodnature said at a news conference that the suspect had confessed. He said the youth's parents had been ''devastated'' by the arrest. The Mower County Attorney, Fred Kraft, said a juvenile petition charging first-degree murder was being processed and that he would attempt to have the boy tried as an adult.

Miss Turnbull, a junior high school teacher of mathematics and physical education, was respected if not universally liked by her pupils. She had had some trouble with vandals. Her home was invaded twice and her car was spray-painted four times, once with obscenities. That incident was laid to the young suspect.

Her friends said Miss Turnbull fitted in well after she moved here in 1973, taking part in community affairs and becoming known for her love of athletics. 'Everyone's Your Neighbor'

''People here are chummy with the teachers and treat them as buddies,'' said Brenda Elton, who works in the town's grocery store. ''Everybody in town knew her,'' said Bernie Fahje. ''In a small town, everyone's your neighbor. You think something like this can't happen in little towns, but it did.''

The body was found last Saturday morning, and the authorities say they believe she was killed sometime Friday morning between midnight and noon, when she was to have left to visit her parents in Centuria.

Mark Hanson, Miss Turnbull's neighbor, said there had been minor crime recently in Lyle, such as gasoline siphoning and the like, but no violence until last week. George Draves, vice president of the Farmers State Bank, said he doubted that there was more vandalism in Lyle than elsewhere. In a small town, he said, people hear about vandalism more because everyone knows everyone. Not Liked by All

A junior high student said, ''A lot of kids didn't like Miss Turnbull that much, because she was kinda strict. But they didn't want her dead. They're sorry to see her gone.''

The authorities said that a .22-caliber rifle had been found in the suspect's home, and the sheriff said a ballistics expert had identified the weapon as the one that killed the teacher.

Sheriff Goodnature said the youth was charged in October with vandalizing Miss Turnbull's car. That case was dismissed through the county court system, the sheriff said.

Mr. Goodnature described the suspect as a good student academically. To his knowledge, the sheriff added, the youth had no severe behavioral problems in school. Whether he might have had any problems with Miss Turnbull had not been determined, he said.

The sheriff added that so far as he knew, the youth had acted alone. He was a hunter and, Mr. Goodnature said, ''there was a pretty good likelihood of his being a marksman.''

Sheriff Goodnature said investigators from his office and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension would now seek the motive.