AUSTIN (KXAN) – When it appeared 2-year-old Colton Turner was having a seizure, his parents took him to a motel because they were afraid of being arrested if they took him to a hospital, court documents show.
Meagan Work, the boy’s mother, and Michael Brandt Turner, Work’s boyfriend, both face a charge of tampering with physical evidence after police found Colton Turner’s body buried near Felter Lane in Southeast Austin.
According to the probable cause document in the case, Work and Colton went to work with Turner on July 6 or 7. Shortly after he started working, Turner told police he heard Work yelling for him. He ran outside and found Colton was not breathing normally. Investigators indicate he may have been having a seizure, based on the information Work provided them. Turner told investigators he climbed into the car and was going to drive the toddler to the hospital but Work told him they’d get in trouble and Colton would be taken from them.
Instead, Turner drove to a motel where Work put ice on Colton’s head because he seemed hot.
Work told investigators she fell asleep and discovered Colton was dead the next morning. She and Turner waited until sundown to bury Colton. The pair wrapped him in a purple blanket and buried him in a shallow grave that Turner dug with a knife. Then, they decided to move Colton’s body to a different, deeper location off of Felter Lane. Turner borrowed a shovel to dig the grave and then covered the site with wood and Sheetrock.
Searching for Colton
A family friend called police last Wednesday to say she was concerned about Colton. She said she hadn’t seen him in more than a month and that there were pictures of him with severe bruising on his body. Officers quickly located Colton’s mom, Work, living in a truck at a home in Cedar Park. They found her boyfriend, Turner, who told police he treated Colton as his son even though he was not his biological father, in the San Saba County jail where he was being held for probation revocation.
Work initially told police Colton was staying with friends in Sasche, Texas. Cedar Park Police called officers in Sasche and asked them to check on the toddler. Police were unable to find him, and the woman with whom Work said the boy was staying told police Colton hadn’t been there.
Then, Work told police Colton had been kidnapped from her car on East Rundberg in Austin. She said Colton, her wallet and a purple blanket were taken from the scene. Because she mentioned kidnapping, police were able to engage the Texas Rangers and the FBI in the search for the 2-year-old boy.
Work changed her story again, the document say. This time, she told officers she gave Colton to a family while eating at a fast-food establishment. She was unable to give officers a description of the couple and only a vague one of their vehicle.
It wasn’t until investigators checked the story with Turner and learned the stories didn’t match. According to the documents, Turner said Meagan told him she knew who the couple was. Investigators confronted him. That’s when, the document says, Turner told investigators Colton was dead and agreed to lead them to the spot where he buried the body.
Investigators then prepared to excavate the site and exhume Colton’s body.
Colton Turner’s last days
Meanwhile, investigators spoke with Colton Turner’s mother, Meagan Work, and asked her if there would be any signs of injury to the boy’s body. According to the document, Work told officers there would be a large “bump” on his head from falling down days before. She also said there would probably be bruising on his body.
“Colton had hit his head on the air conditioning unit inside of the motel room as the result of Colton being assaulted. From that point, Colton was unable to walk and was not acting normal,” the document reads.
Investigators drove back to the San Saba County Jail to talk with Michael Turner about Colton’s injuries. According to the probable cause document, Turner told investigators the bump was Colton’s head “days before his death.”
When investigators asked Turner what he thought happened to the boy, he said Meagan had to have “done something” to him.
No murder charge yet
Both Meagan Work and Michael Turner are charged, but neither with murder. At least not yet. Work and Turner face charges of Tampering with Evidence for burying Colton’s body. But the case could become a murder case as more evidence is uncovered.
“I think they will wait and see what the autopsy shows and the search warrants they filed to see if there was prior bruising,” said legal expert and former prosecutor Mindy Montford. “They will piece all that together and determine what charge is appropriate.”
The arrest warrants filed do not say who is responsible for the assault which caused the injury which may have lead to Colton’s death, but a key piece of evidence for a murder charge could come from the testimony of the suspects themselves.
“You do see a lot of time with co-defendant’s, one will get a lesser charge if they cooperate,” said Montford. “I think (Michael Turner) is on probation right now so that could play into the motivation for him wanting to give law enforcement assistance.”
Police say Turner is the one who told them the truth about Colton’s death and led them to the body.
Tampering with Evidence is typically a 3rd degree felony (2-10 year sentence), however, when the evidence is a human body it can be enhanced to a 2nd degree (2-20 years). The enhancement for cases involving a human body came in response to the murder of Jennifer Cave who was murdered and dismembered in West Campus back in 2005.
If murder charges are filed, it is possible it could be tried as a Capital Murder case due to Colton Turner’s age.