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CNN BURDEN OF PROOF

Two Deceased Atlanta Men Linked to Same Woman May Have More in Common Than First Believed

Aired August 1, 2001 - 12:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAPT. FRANK GOSS, CUMMING POLICE DEPT.: At this point, our investigation is focused primarily on whether or not there was in fact a crime being committed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF MARTIN, TURNER'S FRIEND: I hope it will expose the truth to what really happened in Glenn's, you know, death.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: Two deceased Atlanta men linked to the same woman may have more in common than first believed. New evidence linking the mysterious deaths of Maurice Glenn Turner and Randy Thompson is resurfacing.

Today on BURDEN OF PROOF, will poison found in the system of one man lead to answers in the cause of death in the other? And did Lynn Turner have any role in these two deaths?

ANNOUNCER: This is BURDEN OF PROOF, with Roger Cossack and Greta Van Susteren.

VAN SUSTEREN: Hello, and welcome to BURDEN OF PROOF.

Authorities in Atlanta, Georgia have reopened investigations into the deaths of two men, one who died six years ago, one died six months ago. Both had been involved with the same woman. In January of this year, Randy Thompson died from what investigators thought were natural causes. Yet an autopsy from April 27th showed there was calcium oxalate crystals, a chemical found in antifreeze, in Thompson's kidneys.

COSSACK: Now, authorities are reopening the investigation into the 1995 death of Maurice Glenn Turner. Turner was married to Lynn Turner, who moved in with Thompson after Turner died. At the time of his death, officials attributed Turner's passing to natural causes as well. But doctors did find traces of calcium oxalate crystals on tissue slides from his autopsy. Now, police want further tests to confirm this. On Monday, investigators exhumed his body in order to conduct a second autopsy.

VAN SUSTEREN: Joining us today in Atlanta is criminal defense attorney Jerry Froelich, and former chief of police for Cartersville, Georgia, J.R. Willbanks.

COSSACK: Also in Atlanta, former Jackson county, Georgia prosecutor, Dan Conaway. And joining us in Detroit, is medical examiner Dr. Werner Spitz.

Dr. Spitz, they are talking about exhuming the bodies, doing autopsies over again. First of all, how will they go about exhuming these bodies. And one has been in the ground for six years. Does that mean that a different autopsy will prove anything, or is just too long?

DR. WERNER SPITZ, MEDICAL EXAMINER: No, I don't think it is too long. You can exhume a body after six years, especially if a previous autopsy has already been done, because when they put the organs back after the first autopsy, they put it in plastic bag with formaldehyde, and that is no different than keeping the specimen in a laboratory, and they'll be in good condition.

VAN SUSTEREN: What makes you so sure? Is that like mandatory that they would have done this, that they would have done this, that they would have put the organs back in a formaldehyde, or is that optional, or is it because there was suspicion? I mean, how can we be so sure?

SPITZ: No, because this is the custom, this is the routine. If an autopsy is done, the organs get put back. Very rarely organs do not get put back. But by an large, most of the time, they do get put back, and they're available for a second autopsy, if necessary.

VAN SUSTEREN: What is it -- six years later, is it a complicated matter to go back and try to recreate the cause of death in an instance like this, where they're looking for a poison, number one. And number two, how did they miss is the first time?

SPITZ: Well, I think they missed it, because either something went wrong in the laboratory, or they did not even test for ethylene glucose.

The thing of this, you asked me about exhuming the body, I don't really know that that is necessary. You've got tissue specimens from the first autopsy. All you need to do at the present time is examine them and see that there's calcium oxalate crystals in the kidneys, there are calcium oxalate crystals in the brain. You've got calcium oxalate crystals in two individuals that, at face value, are not connected, and this would be the item that would connect the two.

COSSACK: Dr. Spitz, calcium oxalate -- we think of it as antifreeze. There's no way someone could ingest something like that accidentally, is there? I mean, I suppose accidents can always happen. But the notion that you're going to get this in something else, or by accident take it in, how much would you need to take before it would act as a poison, and wouldn't you taste it?

SPITZ: Well, you have to remember that ethylene glucose has a sweet, not an unpleasant taste. It's a little bit bitter, but mostly sweet. It has no odor, and it has no color. It looks like water. So -- and it mixes with alcohol, and it mixes with water, so that if you want to put that into somebody's drink who drinks the whole evening with you, you can easily hide 100 ml, which is like three ounces, or more, in the nice alcoholic drinks that that person enjoys, and that person would never be any wiser.

VAN SUSTEREN: Dr. Spitz, the calcium oxalate crystals, if you ingest that, does it appear that you would have an irregular heartbeat, which is what they initially thought was the cause of death for Mr. Turner was?

SPITZ: Well, let me tell you, the pathologist who does an autopsy, who determines that the person died of an irregular heartbeat, to put it bluntly, did not find anything. At time of autopsy, the heart stands still, so if he finds nothing, then he concludes that he died of an irregular heartbeat. That mean really nothing.

VAN SUSTEREN: I've got to tell you listening to you who conducted this autopsy six years ago didn't do much after service to family or anybody, if you are saying write down irregular heartbeat if you don't know what the cause is.

SPITZ: That's probably correct. You would -- you know, on the other hand that happens to all of pathologists sometimes, that we do not find anything at an autopsy, and then we sit back and think, well, something must have happened to this individual, because obviously he's dead and...

VAN SUSTEREN: A question mark would be better than misleading by saying that an irregular heartbeat, just put a big question mark, don't know.

SPITZ: Well, are you probably correct. Probably that pathologist could have said, I didn't find anything. Many pathologists don't do that.

COSSACK: Let's go to J.R. Willbanks.

J.R., in terms of the investigation, why is this investigation starting again? What is the cause of this suspicion?

J.R. WILLBANKS, FMR. CHIEF, CARTERSVILLE P.D.: Well, obviously, some questions have been raised concerning the connection between the two individuals that have died when they got the positive results for antifreeze in the most recent death, and then made the connection between the latest victim and the other victim, and then they began having questions.

VAN SUSTEREN: J.R., take me through the steps, if you were assigned to this case, what you would do in investigating it?

WILLBANKS: At this point, or initially?

VAN SUSTEREN: Right now.

WILLBANKS: Well, at this point you have to assume that there could have been oversights or errors made initially, and you have to get past that. You don't want to lay blame who might be responsible. You just simply pick up the investigation at this point. If it is necessary to exhume the body to examine it, then you certainly do so. If you do prove through the second autopsy of the second victim that it is the same similar poisoning, then you have to work it just like you would any other investigation. I would look for possible other victims, any other connections with this individual that may have died under mysterious circumstances, and just proceed from that standpoint.

COSSACK: Dan, as a prosecutor in this case, I suppose that you are now, your interest is starting to get piqued a little bit. You have two men. Both die apparently from this calcium oxalate. More investigation has to be done. What do you start doing as a prosecutor?

DAN CONAWAY, FMR. GEORGIA PROSECUTOR: Well, at this point in the investigation, as the prosecutor in the case, you're going to want to work closely with the police, and the detectives and the crime lab people. You want to begin to look at this case from the point of view that you are going to be taking it perhaps to a grand jury. From that point of view you want to make sure both the police, the detectives and the crime lab people. You want to begin to look at this case from the point of view that you're going to be taking it perhaps to a grand jury. From that point of view, you want to make sure that both the police, the detective and crime lab people are doing things properly so that you can ultimately introduce this evidence, first presenting to it a grand jury so that it makes sense. Then secondly, if you ever need to, actually presenting it in court, where you have to worry about things like chain of custody, and you worry about laying foundations.

COSSACK: Let's get to it. Would Lynn Turner be your number-one suspect in this case?

CONAWAY: I think it's too early to say. I mean, to jump from two bodies, both apparently dying from the same method of poisoning, and actually indicting someone is a really, really big leap. I think you might -- this might be the kind of case you want to call a special grand jury, for instance, to take a further look at the evidence, to make sure you really got a good case together. You don't want to rush to judgment, and then have the case fall apart later in court.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let's get defense view, quick. Jerry, if you represented her, what do you do right now for her?

JERRY FROELICH, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I tell her to keep her mouth shut, don't talk to anybody, and I start saying what has already gone on. There was a GBI lab test, which found it was all right in the Thompson death, and there was an autopsy that said it was all right. In the Turner death, there was an autopsy in which they found an enlarged heart, and the person who did the autopsy, Friske, has stuck by the autopsy and said because there's crystals in the liver, doesn't mean that there was poison. Crystals in the liver can be symptoms of other diseases. And that's the type of thing I would be saying out publicly, and hitting it hard publicly. I wouldn't be talking about the facts or about my client; I would be talking about the autopsies that have already been done, that have found that the deaths were natural, and the GBI's own lab, which found that it was a natural death.

COSSACK: All right, let's take a break.

Up next, why has a profiler been brought into this case? And will he be able unravel the mystery? Stay with us.

(BEGIN LEGAL BRIEF)

The Minuteman Council, one of the largest Boy Scout councils in Massachusetts approved a new bylaw allowing gay scoutmasters, despite the national organization's ban. Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that despite the Boy Scouts of America could exclude gays from serving as troop leaders.

(END LEGAL BRIEF)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSSACK: Investigators have reopened the cases of the deaths of a firefighter and a police officer who were both romantically involved with the same woman. The men died six years apart and originally were thought to have died because of irregular heartbeats. Now according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, firefighter Randy Thompson, who died in January, is now believed to have died because of a poisoning. This discovery sparked interest in the cause of Maurice Glenn Turner's death.

J.R., one issues now that investigators are talking about is bringing in a profiler to try and figure out what kind of a person, if there is a murderer in case, try to figure out what kind after person that person would be. Is that something that you've ever had success with in your days as investigators. Do you think it's a good tool, and do you think anything is going to come of it?

WILLBANKS: I think it's a good tool. We have used it on occasions. Sometimes it was successful; sometimes it was not. Often it's used in the early parts of the investigation, the early phase, and at that point, the investigation is usually in an evidence gathering stage, and you're waiting on a lot of results, back from the crime lab and so forth. It can be very helpful to have a profile of the kind of person you're dealing with, and anything you can use from that, you should use.

VAN SUSTEREN: Jerry, boy, I can't think of any -- it seems to me it's a big waste of time in this case. A profiler is when you've got a huge mystery. I mean, all you need in this particular case find the cause of death of both, and then you investigate to see whether or not the wife, the common woman, has any involvement. What would a profiler do in this case? FROELICH: I have no idea. I'm a former federal and state prosecutor, and, one, I don't think their the greatest thing in the world. But even in this case, I see no use for it. Let's face it, she's the target. Lynn Turner is the woman they are looking at. There's nobody else. She's the only common thread. You don't need a profiler to tell you that Lynn Turner is the top suspect in this case. And I don't know what they can do, unless they are trying the bring in someone really guide the investigation more than to give a them profile.

From what I understand profile they brought in is trained by the FBI, and it may be more of guiding the investigation and giving them an overall view of the investigation, and trying to determine who did it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Jerry, it's not like a huge whodunit here. I'm not saying that she did it, but we first have to find whether or not there was a homicide, what the cause of death was. You then begin investigating to see who might have a motive, who might have a link, and you go around and you talk to the neighbors, you talk to the employer. The last thing I think you need here is a profiler. It almost sounds like they've got a little taste of the Chandra Levy investigation. Let's all go out and get profilers.

FROELICH: Well, I think it sounds good in the papers, and it looks good to the public, but I agree with you, and even if -- they don't even have the proof yet that both people were poisoned. And it is a sweet-swelling liquid. It is a liquid that could be drunk by accident. Now whether that happens twice in a row is another story, and it would be a tough sell. But even if both people were poison, they have to prove someone did it.

COSSACK: Jerry, look...

VAN SUSTEREN: Maybe not, though. If she says she hated these guys and she wanted to give them or something hypothetical...

COSSACK: Jerry, you've got two dead guys, six years apart, you've, got evidence that they both drank a poison, and you've got one woman that is common to both of them. Now, I'm not saying that that makes her a murderer but if I was representing her, perhaps I'd be happy to see a profiler coming down the pike, thinking, gee, maybe they're going to expand this investigation, rather than look at...

VAN SUSTEREN: They can pretend they're like the LAPD and just trample over the evidence.

FROELICH: They are not expanding the investigation. I mean, she's the target of it. Anybody with any common sense will say that. But even you prove both, it's still a big leap, and they have problems, and they may be trying to get somebody to solve their initial problems. That profiler may be there not to pick a person, but to give them explanations as too how they made mistakes, and then tell them maybe who do we look for as witnesses. I mean, even if they find that both were dead, you've got to prove -- a motive is not evidence. A motive is not part of the proof. You put it in, but it is not an essential element of the crime. So even if you prove motive, you've got...

VAN SUSTEREN: It sure helps the prosecution.

Let me go back to Dr. Spitz.

This calcium oxalate that is found in antifreeze, is there any other innocent explanation or any other way you can get this into your system, that is not drinking antifreeze, that could have some sort of, you know, explanation?

SPITZ: Well, the ethylene glucose that is also present in some solvents, but anyone you twist it, it's a poison, and it is not just happens to be there. You have to go and buy it for a purpose, either for cooling your car or for using it as a solvent.

VAN SUSTEREN: So there's nothing else, no -- it couldn't be something else. If you find calcium oxalate in your system, it got there for a bad reason, unless you're nuts and you want to drink this stuff.

SPITZ: Absolutely.

COSSACK: All right, Dan, let's talk about the profiler, the investigation and the facts. I mean, look, you know, Jerry knows the facts, you know the facts. Aren't you this time beginning to focus in on Linda Turner as the possible, if not prime suspect?

CONAWAY: Well, she can be the prime suspect, but, again -- and I think the profiler goes to this -- you are going to have to be able to put together a case against this person, and unless you've got real evidence to connect her to these deaths, beyond a simple profile; I'm talking real facts, going way beyond anything in the lab reports or anything that they've got simply in profile, then they're not going to be able to make a case in court.

I think the profile is good from the point of view that it's showing that the prosecution here is trying to act cautiously, and it's simply trying to simply throw an indictment up against this person.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know what, I've got to tell, Dan, it looks like they're spending a lot of taxpayer money down in the state of Georgia. It's a big, fat waste of time in this particular case, that they ought to do some old-fashioned gumshoe work, hit the pavement, and just do some investigation talk to people.

We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN Q&A)

Who has been named as executive director of "New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty?"

David Kaczynski. KAGAN:, brother of convicted Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, has been an anti-death penalty activist for years.

(END Q&A)

VAN SUSTEREN: Randy Thompson's autopsy found poisonous chemicals in his kidneys. Two months later, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation confirmed that there was evidence of antifreeze in Thompson's blood and urine, enough that could have killed him.

Let me go back Jerry. If she is charged -- and that's a huge if right now -- the investigation is ongoing. I assume in Georgia both cases would be charged together, which of course is terrible for defendant in this instance, do you agree?

FROELICH: Well, they may be or there may not be. What they will try to do is bring one in as other crimes, try to establish a pattern, so whether you're successful in severing them, and I would also have to see where the jurisdiction is. Were they both in Cobb County, which I believe they were? The officers were Forsythe County, but I believe Turner was living in Cobb County at both times, but then you would say that they're two different crimes, but the judge might not let them be tried together, and the prosecution may want two bites at the apple. They may try her on one and bring the other in as pattern or similar crime.

In federal court, it's called 404-b evidence, and they do the same here in the state of Georgia, in the state system.

COSSACK: Jerry, did they search your client's house yet? And I have to ask obvious, did they find any antifreeze in her house?

FROELICH: Well, she's not my client.

COSSACK: I'm sorry.

FROELICH: And I don't believe they searched the house, and I don't think you could get a search warrant. It is so far beyond now. One death I believe was in January, the other six years old, so a search warrant would be stale, and I don't know if you would be able to get a search warrant.

COSSACK: Dan, do you think the government can get a search warrant based on these facts, or do think they'd be stale?

CONAWAY: No, I think at this point there's simply no way you could provide enough probable cause to get a warrant.

What they may want to do in this case instead is simply begin investigation from the point of view of gathering evidence, and then perhaps presenting it to a special grand jury. I think that the DAs office has a real problem here, in the fact that the victim's families involve GBI and other government officials, and so there could be political taint to the investigation process.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know what I think the problem is, Dan, I've got to tell you, they look awfully sloppy. Here you have a medical examiner six years ago, who apparently, according to Dr. Spitz, didn't know what the cause of death was, rather than putting uncertain, misled everybody say irregular heartbeat. Then the situation where the state instead of hitting the pavement, knocking on doors, talking to neighbors, seeing whether or not the woman, who is obviously under the umbrella suspicion, had animosity of these two men, which is at least the bit, bizarre, they've gone out and hired a profiler to figure out who could have didn't this. I've got to tell you, this....

COSSACK: This Profiler one has got you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Look, there's nothing wrong with old-fashioned investigation, where you get facts, where you...

COSSACK: We don't know if they are doing that, too.

VAN SUSTEREN: I can't understand the profiler at this point. But anyway, go ahead.

CONAWAY: If I go back to crime lab for a minute, crime lab comment. The Georgia crime lab is definitely overburdened with all different types of work. And I think one of the biggest problems off the bat, besides trying to links the deaths to anyone, is the problem of the first test. Ultimately, the defense will have the opportunity under Georgia discovery rules if this case goes anywhere to test that evidence, and fact you've got two different conflicting reports already goes to reasonable doubt, so they've got a really, really long road to...

VAN SUSTEREN: And I've got tell you, the overburden defense is hardly very compelling, and usually it means, that's another way to say incompetent, too, because they have an obligation to do it right.

COSSACK: J.R., let me ask, if you are leading up this investigation, what would you be doing now in terms of Lynn Turner, how would you be investigating her?

WILLBANKS: Well, I would ask her for consent to search. I'm assuming at this point she would not give that. If there is probable cause that would warrant a search warrant, I would attempt to do that. There again without knowing more about the case I wouldn't know.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you think you will find this her house? Antifreeze?

COSSACK: Might.

VAN SUSTEREN: I still go back -- might find it in your garage. I still go back to you canvass the neighborhood, you canvass everybody who knew these people.

WILLBANKS: I believe that's probably being done. I'm certain that the law enforcement officers are doing that at this point. I have no problems with them using a profiler. I believe the profiler is in addition to everything else they're doing, and not a substitute for that. So I think...

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you get from the profiler at this point? WILLBANKS: I think you may get a very clear picture of the type of person that Miss Turner is.

VAN SUSTEREN: And of course that's inadmissible in court. So now what do you do with it?

WILLBANKS: Well, use it for investigative leads, use that for any additional information that you may need to direct your investigation. At any time, more compelling evidence surfaces that conflicts with a profiler or any other type of evidence of that nature, then go with what's more certain.

COSSACK: You know what, you and I will keep an eye on this one, find out what that profiler did, if anything.

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, maybe on dead wrong on this, then I have to say I was dead wrong.

COSSACK: I'm afraid that's all the time we have for today. Thanks to our guests, and thank you for watching.

VAN SUSTEREN: Join us again tomorrow for another edition of BURDEN OF PROOF. We'll see you then.

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