Virginia appeals court rejects Dustin Turner's claim of innocence

By Laura Lane
June 30, 2010

Even though another man confessed and was convicted, Dustin Turner will continue serving his 82-year jail sentence for the killing of a 21-year-old Georgia premed student on vacation in Virginia Beach.

The Virginia Court of Appeals on Tuesday denied the former Bloomington resident's claim that he is innocent of the 1995 murder of Jennifer Evans, who was strangled inside Turner's car outside a night club. Turner's Navy SEAL partner, Billy Joe Brown, has admitted killing Evans and is serving a 72-year jail sentence.

Turner's mother, Linda Summitt of Bloomington, had high hopes the court would rule her son was innocent of murder and has served enough time in jail.

“There is no justice in what they are doing,” she said Tuesday night, taking a break from mowing her lawn. “They are supposed to interpret the law and try to make it fair and it just seems like they are doing the reverse. It has gone on for so long already. Fifteen years is too long to serve for something you are innocent of doing.

“I know there are people in Virginia who think he is just as guilty because he was there and helped him (Brown) afterward. But he did not kill her.”

Turner admitted helping Brown dispose of the woman's body; he later showed police where they had hidden it in a nearby park.

The 8-1 appeals court ruling reversed an August decision by a three-judge panel that said Turner should be released based on Brown's statement that he acted alone in killing Evans.

Brown said he lied during his own trial, when he blamed Turner, because he was angry the former Bloomington High School South swimmer cooperated with police.

Summit said her son's lawyer is taking the case to the Virginia Supreme Court, which may consider it later this year.

Evans' mother, too, had something to say about Tuesday's ruling.

“There's just no rest,” the Associated Press quoted her as saying. “God has helped heal my broken heart, but there will always be that empty spot. It keeps getting reopened — the wound does — every time one of these court appeals comes up.”

Copyright: 2010
Used by permission