Harford County man convicted of killing clerk

May 09, 1991|By Deborah I. Greene | Deborah I. Greene,Baltimore County Bureau of The Sun

A Harford County man was convicted yesterday of murdering an Army clerk who was kidnapped last March from a convenience store and sexually assaulted in a wooded area near her base at the Aberdeen Proving Ground.

A Baltimore County jury deliberated four hours before finding Daniel E. Turner, 32, of Aberdeen guilty of murder, kidnapping, attempted rape and theft in the death of Spc. 4 Bonnie Sue Joseph.

The case was moved to Baltimore County because of pretrial publicity.

Harford County prosecutor Joseph I. Cassilly said his office will seek the death penalty against Turner in a hearing set for June 24.

Overwhelmed by the verdict, Turner could not decide yesterday whether to let Circuit Judge Alfred L. Brennan or the jury that convicted him decide whether he should be sentenced to life in prison or death in the gas chamber.

Judge Brennan gave him two weeks to make up his mind.

Luther West, Turner's court-appointed attorney, plans to submit evidence that Turner is mentally impaired and unfit to be sentenced to death. "If he's not mentally retarded then let's just say that he is as close to it as you can get," Mr. West said of Turner, who dropped out of school in the 10th grade and worked most of his life as a farmhand and circus laborer.

Mr. Cassilly, however, said he felt as confident about Turner receiving the death penalty as he had about the jury finding him guilty of murdering the soldier.

Specialist Joseph, 21, a clerk in the 532rd Military Police Company, was found dead March 12 in a clearing just beyond a sparsely populated wooded area in Edgewood.

Investigators tracked the footprints of her killer through swampland and along railroad tracks. Four hours later, they captured a man in bloodstained clothing who was later identified as Daniel Turner.

Testimony from Richard McMillan, Turner's friend, provided a partial alibi for the defendant, but Mr. McMillan proved damaging on the witness stand. Mr. McMillan said that he and Turner spent most of the night together, watching pornographic movies and drinking beer. He said Turner talked repeatedly about wanting to have sex.

It was among the last things Turner said to Mr. McMillan as the two parted ways about 1:30 a.m. at a diner not far from the convenience store where Specialist Joseph had gone to buy cigarettes and food for herself and co-workers.

Clerks at the convenience store testified that Turner was loitering at the back of the store while Specialist Joseph was there, and had been seen standing near the young soldier's car shortly before she left.

The state contended that Turner hid on the back floor of the car and, after surprising the woman, forced her to drive to a secluded fishing spot where he repeatedly attacked her and chased her through the woods to a field. Specialist Joseph's body was found about 6:30 a.m., after a resident looking out from the kitchen window of a nearby house telephoned 911 and reported a man attacking a woman in the field behind her Edgewood home.

Specialist Joseph had been stabbed 25 times. Seven of the wounds were fatal blows to the head and vital organs, according to investigators. They also found semen on her fatigues.

A test of DNA, the body's genetic material, determined that it was Turner's semen on the soldier's fatigues and Specialist Joseph's blood that stained the suspect's clothing.

Mr. West said the the DNA analysis -- used for the first time in a Harford County murder case -- was the most damaging evidence against his client.

"Once we saw the results of the scientific evidence, we realized we couldn't shake it," the defense attorney said after the trial.

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