AZ v. Michael Turney: Missing Sister Murder Trial

Posted at 3:11 PM, July 17, 2023 and last updated 8:58 PM, July 17, 2023


PHOENIX (Court TV) — A judge granted Michael Turney‘s motion to dismiss charges against him after prosecutors rested their case on Monday.

Michael Roy Turney, 75, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of his stepdaughter, Alissa Turney, who disappeared more than 20 years ago and whose body has never been found.

michael turney and alissa turney combo image

(L) Michael Turney, (R) Alissa Turney (Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office/Scripps News Phoenix)

On May 17, 2001, Alissa, 17, told her boyfriend that her stepfather was going to be taking her out of school early. It was the last day of her junior year at Paradise Valley High School. She was never seen again.

Michael reported his stepdaughter missing, but told police that he believed she had run away, and told investigators that she had left behind a note indicating she was going to California. In a 2009 interview with ABC News, Michael said that he received a call from Alissa a week after she disappeared.

In 2008, investigators re-opened Alissa’s case and classified it as a criminal investigation after receiving new information. In an interview with NBC’s Dateline, Phoenix Police Sgt. Maggie Cox said that investigators began to focus after speaking to several people and hearing allegations of sexual abuse.

When officers served search warrants at Michael’s properties in 2008, they discovered evidence of what police called a “bombing plot” and took him into custody. Federal investigators said they found 26 pipe bombs, three incendiary devices and two silencers. He pleaded guilty and served 10 years in prison.

Missing person poster for Alissa Turney

A missing person poster asked for information after Alissa Turney, 17, disappeared on May 17, 2001. (Silent Witness)

On August 19, 2020, a grand jury returned an indictment of second-degree murder in Alissa’s case.

Prosecutors have not released any information publicly about what evidence they have tying Michael to his stepdaughter’s disappearance, or that Alissa died.

At a news conference announcing Turney’s arrest in 2020, Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel credited Alissa’s sister, Sarah, in part for the indictment. “Your perseverance and commitment to finding justice for your sister Alissa is a testament to the love of a sister. Because of that love, Alissa’s light has never gone out, and she lives in on the stories and photos that you have shared with the community.”

Sarah brought renewed focus on Alissa’s case with her ‘Voices for Justice’ podcast as well as videos posted to social media raising attention to her sister’s disappearance.

“For nearly 20 years, those who loved Alissa longed to see and hear from her one last time,” Adel said. “They have longed for closure and demanded that anyone who is responsible for her disappearance be held accountable.”

After the prosecution rested its case on July 17, Turney’s attorneys filed a motion with the court asking for the charges to be dismissed. The judge granted the motion and ordered Turney to be released immediately.

In a statement following the trial, County Attorney Rachel Mitchell told Court TV, “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.”


DAY 6 – 7/17/23

DAY 5 – 7/13/23

DAY 4 – 7/12/23

DAY 3 – 7/11/23

  • The jury heard from John Turney, Alissa’s half-brother, and James Turney, Alissa’s stepbrother.
  • The judge ruled that the jury cannot hear James’ testimony that Alissa confided in him about an incident where Turney put his hand on her leg, allegedly tried something, and she ran away screaming.
  • The jury heard from Mike Stanley, the boy in the surveillance video, that is seen with Alissa on the couch. Stanley testified to making out with Alissa mid-spring 2001.

DAY 2 – 7/10/23

  • The state showed the jurors Alissa’s handwritten note that was left behind in her room the day she disappeared.
  • Sarah Turney testified she asked Turney what happened to Alissa and he responded he would tell her on his death bed.
  • Sarah made sure to tell the jury that she believed she was brainwashed by Turney to believe everything he told her about Alissa.
  • The jury asked Sarah to describe Turney more and why she had described Alissa as brave.
  • John Turney, Alissa’s brother, began direct examination.

DAY 1 – 7/6/23