A Franklin County jury has returned a not guilty in the murder trial of Robert D. Turner, the Columbus man who was charged with fatally shooting former Hillsboro resident Thomas K. Burns in June of 2014.
Burns, 52 at the time of his death, was a longtime car salesman in Hillsboro who at one time owned Northview Motors and storage units in New Market. He was allegedly robbed at his apartment on the west side of Columbus and shot.
Police said that when he was found shot on the ground near a van outside his apartment, he told first responders that “Kenny” shot him.
That led investigators to Kenny Kee, who was at one time a suspect but was not charged in the incident and did not testify during last week’s trial, according to reports.
But Burns’ sister, Cindy Seip, said Tuesday that a prosecutor in the case told her that Turner was sometimes called Kenny, but that prosecutors could not find anyone who would testify to that.
Turner, 48, was acquitted Monday on charges of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary in Burns’ death.
His co-defendant, Teresa Grubb, pled guilty in August of 2014 to involuntary manslaughter and aggravated robbery in exchange for testifying against Turner, according to Seip. Grubb is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 30.
Grubb was one of Burns’ roomates and said Turner was aware that Burns had inherited more than $17,000 and kept the cash in their apartment. She testified that Turner planned to rob Burns and that she opened a window in the apartment for Turner, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
Although she didn’t witness the shooting, she fled the state with Turner shortly after the crime and testified that she overheard him tell his brother that he shot Burns. Investigators found Turner’s fingerprint on the frame of the open window at the apartment, the Columbus Dispatch reported.
Grubb told the jury that Turner kidnapped her when she arrived in the apartment parking lot after the shooting.
Authorities eventually arrested Grubb in West Virginia and Turner in Pennsylvania. The stolen money and the murder weapon were never recovered, according to the Dispatch.
Turner had been in custody for about 16 months at the time of the trial.
“I would like to personally thank Ms. Geraghty & Ms. Behrens from the Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office in Columbus for their hard work on my brother’s murder case,” Seip wrote Tuesday on her Facebook page. “They worked very hard on the case. Had the law permitted for them to share in the courtroom what all of us knew about Robert Turner’s past felonies, then I honestly believe the ending would have been in our favor. However, the law prohibits any exposure to the jury which would give them any preconceived ideas about the person charged with the crime. They have to make their decision based on the facts presented.
“There is no doubt in the eyes of the state, the detectives involved, and all those that knew Robert Turner’s past felonies, that he is the man responsible for my brother’s death. Now is when we turn it over to God. The principle of seed-time and harvest works in every situation (good or bad). You sow kindness, you reap kindness. You sow hatred, you reap hatred. You take a life, somehow your life will be taken. Again, God is the ultimate judge and jury.”
Seip said a prosecutor told her Turner is a suspect in two homicides in Buffalo, N.Y.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.