World News

US: Cold Case

Stepfather charged with murder of Alissa Turney who disappeared on last day of school in Phoenix,

Nearly 20 years after 17-year-old Alissa Turney disappeared from her home in Phoenix, Arizona in 2001, her stepfather Michael Turney has been indicted by a grand jury in her murder.

Turney arrested on Thursday in Mesa, Arizona and charged with second-degree murder, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office announced at a press conference. Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel declined to say what led to the arrest, only that a grand jury issued the indictment.

Alissa was last seen on May 17, 2001, the last day of her junior year at Paradise Valley High School. Her sister, Sarah Turney, told Dateline in June that she remembers her sister being excited for summer and was planning to attend a graduation party later that evening.

Alissa never made it to that party.

According to the Phoenix Police Department, Michael Turney, told authorities that he picked Alissa up from her last day of school around 11 a.m. and took her out to lunch. He said they got into an argument over Alissa’s desire for more freedom. When they returned home, he said Alissa was still angry and went to her room. Turney said left around 1 p.m. to run errands and to pick up Sarah from her field trip.

When they returned home, Alissa was gone. A note had been left behind saying she was running away to California.

At the time, police determined there was no foul play involved and believed she was a runaway.

Several family members and friends disagreed, but the case went cold until 2006, when a Florida man’s confession to killing Alissa brought her case back into the spotlight. It was later determined that Thomas Hymer’s description of Alissa was not viable and his story was false. He later admitted that he might have been mistaken.

In 2008, investigators from the Phoenix Police Department Missing Persons Unit opened Alissa’s case and declared that foul play was indeed a factor in her disappearance, according to Sergeant Maggie Cox.

“At the time, there were no signs of foul play or exigency based on the fact Alissa was 17 years old and had no mental/physical health issues,” Sgt. Cox told Dateline. “Alissa was entered into NCIC as soon as the report was taken. In 2008, the Missing Persons Unit Detectives began to investigate further information obtained in the case.”

Sergeant Cox told Dateline that allegations of sexual abuse by Michael Turney prompted investigators to focus on him after speaking to several people in 2008.

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