AUSTIN (KXAN) — Moments after Michael Turner agreed to plea guilty in exchange for a 20-year prison sentence, he bowed his head and was visibly shaken as Colton Turner’s grandmother told him how much damage he caused in their lives.
“You are a heartless and selfish monster,” said Kim Vidaure. “Whatever part you had in Colton’s death ruined your lives and destroyed mine and my family’s.”
Michael Turner, 31, and his girlfriend Meagan Work were both charged in the death of Meagan’s 2-year-old son Colton. Although Turner was not Colton’s biological father, his attorney said he took on the role of dad and is deeply remorseful for Colton’s death.
When (Vidaure) spoke eloquently about what she’d miss about Colton, that hit home with Michael and I think he’s been living with that since the time Colton died,” said Steve Brand.
Police say Meagan Work changed her stories many times about what happened to Colton but it was Michael who led them to a shallow grave where his body was found. Michael pled guilty to two counts of tampering with evidence stemming from burying Colton’s body before removing him and burying him in a different location. He also pled guilty to 2nd degree Reckless Injury to a Child by Omission, a lesser charge than Intentional Injury to a Child, a 1st degree crime. By agreeing to the lesser charge, Turner avoided a possible sentence of 5-99 years in prison if he were convicted of the first degree felony. Because the crime is “non-aggravated,” he could be eligible for parole in roughly 3 ½ years.
“But for Michael Turner leading them to the body, I don’t know if they ever find Colton Turner. I hope they give him credit for that,” said Brand.
The 20-year sentence did not sit well with Colton’s grandmother and grand-aunt who reminded the media of the toddler which was lost.
“His favorite place was under the kitchen sink and he loved the gummy bear song,” said grand-aunt Diane Battles. “I feel numb when it comes to Mike and Meagan. There is nothing I feel for them except hate.”
Court documents show Turner and Work did not want to take Colton to a hospital after he suffered serious injuries for fears they would be held responsible. The young boy would eventually succumb to those injuries, but Brand said Michael Turner is not accused of actively harming Turner. The charge of Injury to a Child by Omission is because neither he nor Work sought medical help for the boy’s injuries. A decision Brand cannot explain.
“I wish there was an explanation we could come forward with on why things happened the way they did,” Brand said. “Unfortunately there is not.”
Because he has now been convicted, the state can subpoena Michael Turner to testify in the still pending trial of Meagan Work if they so choose. Judge David Wahlberg ruled many statements Work made in investigators is inadmissible, but Michael Turner’s cooperation during the investigation could make him a valuable witness.
According to the internal investigation, there were four Child Protective Service investigations into the allegations that Colton was being abused. Supervisors and case workers failed to follow policy and made many mistakes. Three CPS workers were fired for how they handled the case.