FREE DUSTY!

Ex-SEAL trainee's friend says only he killed woman

By SONJA BARISIC Associated Press Writer

Published on Wednesday May 28, 2008

A former Navy SEAL trainee from Ohio testified Wednesday that he alone killed a Georgia college student, a crime that sent him and a friend to prison.

Billy Joe Brown testified in Virginia Beach Circuit Court as part of Dustin Turner's bid to overturn his conviction. The two were stationed at Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base, training to become elite Navy commandos, when pre-med student Jennifer Evans disappeared from a Virginia Beach bar in June 1995.

Turner, of Bloomington, Ind., and Brown, of Dayton, Ohio, were convicted in separate jury trials of killing Evans. But in a sworn statement in 2003, Brown said he was the only one responsible for Evans' death.

He said he became a Christian in prison and realized he had to come clean.

"I am here to glorify Jesus Christ by telling the truth," he said Wednesday. "If it helps Dusty, that's great."

Under cross-examination by prosecutors, he acknowledged telling conflicting stories about what happened the night Evans died.

Wednesday's hearing, which will determine the credibility of Brown's confession, was granted by the Virginia Court of Appeals under a law allowing inmates to present newly discovered evidence of innocence. The hearing was scheduled to resume Thursday.

After a judge determines whether Brown's confession is credible, the case will go back to the appeals court, which must decide whether it would have changed the outcome of Turner's trial.

If so, Turner, 33, would be freed, said his attorney, David B. Hargett. Prosecutors could appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court.

Brown said Wednesday that he choked Evans but later claimed Turner did it because he was angry that Turner snitched to investigators.

Brown said he and Turner went drinking at an oceanfront bar when Turner met Evans, a 21-year-old Emory University student from Tucker, Ga. Tired of waiting for another woman to give him a ride home, Brown said he joined Turner and Evans in a car.

Brown said he talked to them and played with Evans' hair.

"One minute I was normal. The next minute I snapped and I started choking her," Brown testified.

Turner testified that Evans swatted Brown's hand away and that Brown attacked her as Turner was starting to tell him to get out of the car.

"I probably didn't get the first word out when he snapped," Turner said.

Turner said he tried to pry Brown's arms away from the woman's neck, but she went limp and Turner assumed she was dead.

While Brown testified Wednesday that he passed out immediately after choking Evans, Turner said he was able to give him directions to get to the highway. Turner drove to Newport News, where the men dumped the body in a park.

Under cross-examination, Robert Anderson, senior assistant attorney general, highlighted inconsistencies in Brown's versions of the crime.

Brown first told police that he and Turner molested and killed Evans together. But he also told them that when he found the car in the parking lot, Evans was already dead and Turner said he had killed her.

At his trial, Brown testified that Turner claimed to have subdued Evans, killing her in the process, because she resisted his advances.

Brown, who testified that he was drinking heavily the night Evans died, said Wednesday that he had no conscience then.

"Tell one lie. Tell a million lies," he said.

He lied so much that he said his defense attorney did not believe him in 1999 when he wrote a letter saying he had committed the crime alone. He later recanted on the advice of another inmate.

Asked if he was telling the truth Wednesday, Brown replied, "I told it to the best of my memory. I remember bits and pieces."

Both initially denied involvement. Nine days after Evans disappeared, Turner led police to her decomposed body in a park 30 miles away.

Turner was sentenced to 82 years in prison for first-degree murder and abduction with intent to defile. Brown was sentenced to 72 years for conviction on the same charges plus attempted rape.

If Turner loses in court, he could try petitioning Gov. Timothy M. Kaine for clemency.

The previous governor, Mark R. Warner, denied a pardon request in 2005.