Sheriff describes youth's confession in Lyle teacher's death

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Friday, December 24, 1982
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Sheriff describes youth's confession in Lyle teacher's death

By Bill McAuliffe
Southern Minnesota Correspondent

Austin, Minn.
A 14-year-old Lyle boy told authorities he shot Sharon Turnbull and then blacked out, according to testimony Thursday in the boy's murder hearing.

The confession, described in court by Mower County Sheriff Wayne Goodnature, was the second obtained by law-enforcement officials on Aug. 12, six days after the teacher was killed.

Goodnature said he dismissed the first confession, given by a 15-year-old boy to agents of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), because he believed it had been coerced.

On Wednesday, BCA agents testified that they rejected the confession because the 15-year-old cited details that were inconsistent with other evidence.

Of the 14-year-old's confession, Goodnature said, "My perception is that (the defendant) was being very honest with me. He was staring me right in the eye, telling me what took place."

Goodnature, testifying for the prosecution for the fourth time in four days, said the 14-year-old confessed to the crime in a discussion with the sheriff in the kitchen of the boy's home. Goodnature then arrested him.

In other testimony yesterday, a BCA ballistics expert said he could not link the bullet fragments found in Turnbull's head to a .22 caliber shell casing found next to her porch.

James Lansing, supervisor of the BCA's tool markings and firearms division, said the bullet was too damaged and its markings too common to link it with a specific rifle. However, he said the casing found in Turnbull's flower garden definitely had been fired by the rifle seized in a search of the 14-year-old's home, several hours before his confession.

The shell and the rifle were not accepted or rejected as evidence yesterday. Defense attorney Bruce Hanley of Minneapolis objected to them, saying prosecutor Charlotte Peterson had not established as foundation for their admission as evidence.

Olmsted County Judge Harold Krieger, who is hearing the case, took Hanley's objections under advisement and will rule on the evidence when the hearing resumes Monday.

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Hanley also objected to Goodnature's testimony about the 14-year-old's confession and about a phone call Goodnature received from the boy's mother after he had searched the defendant's house. Hanley argued that the testimony was hearsay and violated the privilege of parent-child communication.

Krieger took the objections under advisement but allowed Goodnature to testify.

The sheriff said that after he and his deputies seized a rifle from the defendant's home, the boy's mother had called and told him that her son had admitted shooting Turnbull.

Goodnature testified that he then went to the family's home, obtained the boy's statement and arrested him.

"He said, 'I remember watching Quincy,'" a television show, Goodnature said." 'And then I was sitting on the edge of my bed with the gun in my hands.'

"He said, 'I didn't know if she was dead. I knew I'd just shot her.'"

Goodnature said the boy told him he then emptied his gun, cleaned it and put it back against the family's gun case. Then, he said, the boy told him he went back to his room "and cried himself to sleep."

Goodnature also said the boy's mother had asked her son during his confession, "Do you think I hated her (Turnbull) that bad, that you were doing it for me?" The boy answered no, the sheriff said.

"I didn't ask him why he did it," Goodnature testified. "He said he didn't know why."

The prosecution was still presenting its case when the hearing was adjourned yesterday for the holidays. The defense is expected to begin next week.

Although the 14-year-old is accused of the act of first-degree-murder, the hearing cannot result in a murder conviction, but only in a determination of whether he committed a delinquent act. Possible penalties range from counseling to placement in a juvenile detention center until he reaches age 19.