AUSTIN (KXAN) — The first court date for Meagan Work and her boyfriend, Michael Brandt Turner, has been reset for Oct. 30 in connection to the death of 2-year-old Colton Brandt Turner. Initially, the date was set for this Tuesday. Work, Colton’s mother, and 29-year-old Michael Brandt Turner, both face a charge of tampering with physical evidence after police found Colton’s body buried in a shallow grave near Felter Lane in Southeast Austin on Friday. Colton was wrapped in a purple blanket, lying beneath a pile of wood and Sheetrock.
Work is being represented by Austin criminal defense attorney Darla Davis, who served as an assistant district attorney in Travis County for 13 years. Meanwhile, Turner — recently transferred to the Travis County Jail from San Saba County — is being represented by defense attorney William White. Both Worker and Turner are still being held in the Travis County Jail on $250,000 bond.
Meanwhile, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has confirmed to KXAN that Texas Child Protective Services employees could face “personnel actions” over the handling of the Colton Turner case. That includes possible termination or other disciplinary measures, according to officials.
DFPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins told KXAN Sunday that Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner John Specia Jr. will oversee the review. So far, the punishments and reviews have not been finalized
CPS “involvement” with Colton
The timeline on when the Texas Division of Child and Protective Services first learned about abuse complaints involving Colton remains unclear. But CPS spokeswoman Julie Moody told KXAN on Tuesday that the agency “had involvement” with Turner’s mother, Meagan Work. Work, along with her boyfriend and son’s namesake, Michael Brandt Turner, are both being held in the Travis County jail on $250,000 bond, jail records showed. They are both charged with tampering with evidence. Police have said further charges could be brought.
Moody also confirms to KXAN CPS staff decided on the evening of Sept. 12 to conduct an internal review into how its investigators handled any complaints. Law enforcement sources told KXAN Monday there were four known abuse complaints made to CPS regarding Colton’s well being. An Austin Police warrant affidavit released Monday requesting a search of Work’s Facebook page contends CPS ‘was advised’ of photos showing bruises and injuries on Colton’s back and face.
Moody would not confirm whether there was an active investigation into abuse complaints or that its staff could not find Meagan Work, as police officials indicated. A team of Cedar Park Police patrol officers and detectives located Work in hours, Chief Sean Mannix told KXAN Monday. Colton’s body was recovered in a shallow grave in Southeast Austin 42 hours after detectives received their first tip from the public the little boy had not been seen since midsummer. They were led there by Work’s boyfriend Michael Turner, the affidavit contends.
CPS will also conduct a standard death investigation. State law also requires CPS staff to fill out a form 2059 – a Summary of Client Needs. It could reveal more about how Colton was living before he disappeared – providing it turns out there was an investigation then. Police say his mother Meagan Work was living in her green Dodge pick-up truck for months when she was located last week. That truck has been through a forensic examination and is now in police lock-up, law enforcement officials confirmed.
Searching for Colton
A family friend called police Sept. 10 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 before he was later transferred to Travis County Jail amid charges in connection to Colton’s death.
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.