The case of

Alissa Marie Turney

alissa_turney
Victim

Alissa Marie Turney

Victim Race

Caucasian

Victim Date of Birth

1984-04-03

Victim Age

17

Date Reported

2001-05-17

Date of Death
Case Status

Open

Incident Location

Paradise Valley, Arizona

Body Location

Unknown

Date of Conviction

Awaiting trial

Body Discovered Date

Not found

Murderer

Michael Turney

Alissa Turney

Alissa Marie Turney was born on April 3, 1984, in. Daughter to Barbara Strahm, She lived in Paradise Valley, Arizona. In 1987, when Alissa was 3, her mother Barbara met Michael Turney. He was a deputy for the Maricopa County Sheriff’s office in Arizona. Barbara was getting over her difficult previous marriage and Michael just appeared like her shining armour. They soon moved in together and got married. Barbara had two kids, Alissa and John; and Michael had three sons. On October 18, 1989 they would have a daughter together, this was Sarah Turney. They were a big happy family.

When Alissa was 9 and Sarah was 4, Barbara died from lung cancer. She was only 34 when this happened. Michael then got into a deep depression and became a person his kids hardly recognized. All the boys were old enough to move out so this left Michael to raise the young girls. He legally adopted Alissa after her mother died.

Alissa Turney grew up and got a job in a Jack in the Box fast food restaurant. She was a dedicated employee she never missed a shift. She loved the idea of making money that could help her have a better future. She also loved socializing and making new friends. She had both things in that job so it was perfect. Alissa didn’t really love school and would sometimes skip it but she still kept her grades in a pretty good level. She also loved music and writing in her notebook. She loved kids and was sure that when the right time came, she was going to be a wonderful mother. She was kind of a mother figure to Sarah already. Their love was persistent and unconditional.

Where is Alissa Turney?

On May 17, 2001, it was the last day of school for Alissa. It was the end of her junior year at Paradise Valley High School. Michael dropped her off as he always did. He also always picked her up but this particular day he did it earlier, about 11:00am. He said it was to celebrate Alissa’s last day of school. They went for lunch.

According to Michael, during lunch they started having an argument because Alissa was demanding more freedom but Michael told her that as long as she continued living under his roof, she would have to go by his rules. They then finished eating and Michael drove Alissa back home. He said she was still mad so she went straight to her room. Michael headed out again to pick up his younger daughter Sarah from school. But he made it there late. Sarah was tired of waiting and went to her friend’s house next to the school.

When Michael and Sarah arrived home, Alissa wasn’t there. Her room seemed like a big mess, something very unlike her. On her bed they found a note from Alissa that said:

“Dad and Sarah, when you dropped me off at school today, I decided I really am going to California. Sarah, you said you really wanted me gone – now you have it. Dad, I took $300 from you. That’s why I saved my money.”

They thought maybe she was joking and she would be back by night time. There was a party at school and Alissa Turney had been excited about that for the past weeks. However she didn’t show up. Michael then called the police to report her as a runaway but missing bit runaway… who really knows what was on Michael’s head.

Investigation Details

Michael had been the one reporting her daughter missing but at the same time he kept telling them he believed she had definitely ran away. He said Alissa had had an aunt in California and had talked about wanting to go live with her because she didn’t get along with Michael.

Since Alissa Turney was 17 at the time and her own father claimed she was a runaway, police didn’t really make much of an investigation. Even when after talking to Alissa’s aunt in California and she told them Alissa wasn’t with her.

Another really weird thing is that when investigators looked into Alissa’s bank account, they saw she had 800 dollars that were untouched. The question was how could a teenager survive without money? Mostly because in her note she mentioned she had been saving money for her trip, so why not use it.

The case just went cold.

In 2006, self-proclaimed serial killer Thomas Albert Hymer told a prison guard that he had killed Alissa He had been in prison since 2003 for an unrelated murder. However, when Phoenix police questioned Thomas Hymer, they ultimately determined that he had not had any contact with Alissa, and he admitted he might have confused her with a different victim.

The Phoenix police department missing persons unit decided to reinvestigate Alissa Turney’s case in 2008. They started running interviews again and many of Alissa’s friends talked about the disturbing relationship Michael had with Alissa Turney. They learned that Michael had picked Alissa up earlier from school hat day. He hadn’t shared that information with anyone, not even Sarah. That was strange. When he was asked about it, Michael said that Alissa Turney asked him to pick her up early that day because she was trying to avoid her boyfriend John. She wanted to break up with him after school and didn’t not want to see him until then. However, when John was interviewed he said that actually Alissa Turney had found him in his class room that day and said hello to him. She then said her father was there to pick her up but she would see him later. Alissa’s friends said her relationship with John as very stable and she had not mentioned any intentions of breaking up with him.

Up to this point, Michael had already been asked to take polygraph tests but he had never been collaborative with the Phoenix Police Department.

On December 11, 2008, police called Sarah Turney and told her they believed her father was responsible for Alissa’s disappearance. After having the interviews with Alissa’s friends they have told police investigators that the way Michael treated his stepdaughter gave them the feeling that he was molesting her. For example, they found out that Michael was always trying to control Alissa in every way; different from Sarah who had almost no rules.

To Sarah, the accusations made no sense. Her father had never been abusive to her. He was nothing but a kind and loving father. He would do her best to get her everything that she needed. Michael was also a good caring friend and neighbour. He gave to charity, etc.

Around this time, Michael called the police to tell them he had an idea of what could have happened to Alissa. He said that back in the 80’s when he was working as an electrician, he filed a complaint about the working conditions and he believed the Union hall had a grudge against him for about twenty years and went after Alissa. When police went to speak with Michael, he was outside just checking his mail. They were surprised when they noticed he was carrying a knife, two loaded guns and seven magazines of ammunition. After this, police believed it was time to search the house.

About 100 neighbours were evacuated out of their homes by the police. Phoenix Police Bombs squad and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tabaco and Firearms and Explosives were searching Michael’s home. Sarah was asked to get out of the house and take her three dogs that day. This was described as the largest seizure of Improvised explosive devices that the Phoenix PD has ever made. They found more than 28 pipe bombs and other explosive devices, 19 loaded high calibre assault rifles, 2 handmade silencers in a van that was filled with gasoline cans. In Michael’s safe they found a 98 page manifesto entitled “Diary of a mad man murderer” written by Michael.

When Michael was questioned about the manifesto and the weapons, he said that he was so well armed because the Union kidnapped and killed Alissa Turney. They buried her in the dessert in central California. He claimed he had killed two assassins that carried out the hit on Alissa. So he had to be prepared to hit back of they came. Yup, it sounds like a movie.

Michael said that Alissa had been buried in the dessert of California, back in 2003 skeletal remains had been found in the California dessert by a hiker. But not even the gender of the person had been identified. All tests were inconclusive because the bones were in such bad shape.

Sarah believed her father was probably making things up, he had been without an occupation for so long, he had a lot of time to do research and create stories. She did find a map of California with some points marked with specific coordinates around the dessert area in it. She handled it to the police but they didn’t look into it.

Sarah’s thoughts about Michael were about to change when she found out firsthand what Alissa’s friends have told the police when they were interviewed; all of them told police that Alissa have talked to them about Michael constantly abusing and molesting her. Once she told her boyfriend John that Michael had taken her to the dessert just to abuse her. She had even told a school teacher that she was being molested by her step dad. So yes, pretty much everybody knew that Michael was a sick bastard abusing her stepdaughter. Why didn’t they say anything about it? We keep asking ourselves the same question.

When they searched Michael’s house they also found dozens of surveillance home videos. He also had his own phone lines intervened to record all of their conversations. There was footage of Alissa at work. Like Michael would even sit outside Alissa’s part-time job at Jack in the Box and record her as she worked. He insisted this was for the girls’ safety.  They also found a couple of home contracts notarized. In the papers, Alissa had signed an agreement that said “My step father Michael is not molesting me”. Now, why would somebody have to do that? What normal father and daughter relationship has that kind of contract in between? No protective father does that. This was not protection, this contract screams all the opposite that’s written on it.

But even with all these disturbing findings, everything police could do was put Michael in federal prison for a few years for having explosives at home. To them, there was not actual evidence of him murdering Alissa; there was not even evidence of him actually molesting Alissa. Yes, they had all the interviews with Alissa’s friends and teachers, etc., but all of this was hearsay, it didn’t really proof anything.

In 2017, once Michael was out of jail, he and Sarah had a coffee at Starbucks. She wanted to ask him about all the allegations made against him. She took an audio recorder with her that day. Everything Michael said was “I will tell you the truth when I’m on my deathbed” She took this as pretty much a confession and took it to the police. Sadly, they told her there was nothing they could do with this. Not good enough to charge him.

There was apparently nothing they could to but still Law enforcement told Sarah to create a media presence to help keep the case alive. She made Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts with the username “Justice for Alissa.” Sarah got in contact with several true crime enthusiasts and she was able to get more attention to Alissa’s case. She even spent a year to raise money and put up a billboard along Interstate 17 near 19th Avenue.

Sarah Turney started a podcast in September 2019 called Voices for Justice, in which she presented information not commonly known by the public or the true crime community, and told the full story surrounding her sister’s disappearance based on the information she had.

To prepare, Sarah wanted to gather all the information the police had on her sister’s disappearance. She went to the Phoenix Police Department with her request for the records and received in return nearly 3,000 pages of publicly released notes and case documents.

But real traction came when Sarah joined TikTok., her account @Saraheturney has over 1 million followers and her videos have a total of over 20 million likes.

On Thursday August 20, 2020, Michael Turney was arrested and charged by a grand jury with second degree murder in Mesa County. Nobody really knows what’s the new discovery or evidence leading to his arrest.

Trial 

Since this happened during the middle of pandemic, things have taken longer than expected but the trial has been scheduled for September, 2022.

Verdict

Awaiting trial.

Subscribe TO OUR WEEKLY
TRUE CRIME

NEWSLETTER