Sausalito murder may be result of suicide pact — (MarinScope)

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Marinscope Community Newspapers

By Jessica Mullins

Posted: Wednesday, September 2, 2009 12:00 am | Updated: 12:30 pm, Wed Oct 10, 2012.

New details from Sausalito’s first murder in 19 years have emerged.

According to two witnesses who testified in court this week, Turner admitted to killing Avril Clary as part of a suicide pact. Financial woes and the fear of eviction, which would likely force them to live apart in shelters, led the couple to plan a joint suicide, said Vivianne Campbell, a friend of Turner’s who tipped the police off to the crime.

Campbell, who had been friends with Turner since 2004, picked him up in Sausalito on April 18 at his request. “He called me asking if I would give him a ride and a few bucks,” she said. She decided to let him come to her home in Richmond, figuring he could help her unpack in the home to which she had recently moved.

She picked him up outside Turner’s 501 Bridgeway apartment. Campbell said Turner looked dirty and unshaven, and his hair was in disarray. “He said it had been a rough week.”

It wasn’t until they were driving on Highway 101 that Turner made his confession to Campbell. “He blurted out ‘I killed Avril,’ ” she said.

The murder had taken place a few days before and Turner had been staying in the home. Campbell described him as fearful and remorseful. “He was distraught. The love of his life was dead,” she said. “He was wishing he had died.”

As Turner and Campbell approached the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, he began telling her details. “He said it was part of a suicide pact they had,” Campbell said. They planned it together and even sharpened his best fishing knife for their suicide. “They made the decision if they couldn’t be together in life they would be together in death.”

She said Turner sliced Clary’s neck while they were having sex. “In the conclusion, he picked up the knife, she nodded, and he slit her.”

He then turned the knife on himself, cutting his own neck. “They both passed out. He woke up. She didn’t,” Campbell said.

Turner showed a deep cut on his neck to Campbell in the car, a long line just above the collar of his shirt, while he was telling her what had happened. He had also slit his wrists.

As Turner told Campbell what happened, she kept urging him to go to the police. “He said he would rather die than go to prison.” He threatened to jump out of the car while they were on the bridge. “I was really freaked out,” Campbell said.

When they arrived at Campbell’s home, they would alternate casual discussion with her attempts to get Turner to turn himself in. After several hours, she ended up leaving Turner at her home while she went to the police station with a friend.

Craig Royal-Ratmour, Campbell’s roommate, spoke with Turner before the police arrived and took him into custody. Royal-Ratmour returned home, despite his roommates calls warning him of the situation and asking him to avoid their place.

Royal-Ratmour said Turner explained the suicide pact. Turner had been drinking since he arrived at their home. Turner spoke quickly and was shaky, Royal-Ratmour said. “He said they had two unsuccessful attempts prior.”

Royal-Ratmour said the couple planned to die while they were having sex so they would “transit out together.”

A bloody scene

Before he was arrested, Turner made self-incriminating statements to Sausalito police investigators. Sausalito police found Clary dead around 4:30 p.m. on April 18, after receiving information from the Richmond Police Department that Clary may have been killed in the previous two days. They found Clary dead on the bed with a severe laceration to her neck.

In court, Sausalito police Detective Brandon Rodgers said Clary and Turner’s home was dark and messy, with a layout that made their welfare check (when they found Clary’s body) difficult. He said there were electrical items taken apart on the floor throughout the house, as well as empty alcohol bottles and garbage. A knife was found, with dried blood on the blade, on the ground near the bed. The bed had large bloodstains, some of which were covered in green mold. Blood was in other areas of the apartment, including the bathtub, toilet, hallway and a door hinge in the bedroom.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Ferenc, who performed Clary’s autopsy, said the obvious cause of her death was the large wound to her neck — it could cause “bleeding to death in a matter of minutes.”

He said the large pool of blood to the left was from Clary, but the blood on her right side was likely someone else’s. “It’s not impossible it was hers, but it’s extremely unlikely.”

The toxicology report showed Tylenol and Benadryl and a level of Prozac that was “slightly high.” Ferenc said there was no evidence that the death involved a sexual assault and there was no trauma to the head or brain.

Judge orders Turner to stand trial

Deputy District Attorney A.J. Brady said the crime appeared premeditated. “He intended to kill her. It’s quite simply a murder case.”

Turner’s attorney, public defender Beth Wissing-Healy, asked that Turner be charged with manslaughter. She stressed that Turner was deeply in love with Clary. “It was a clean wound. There was no violent struggle. There’s evidence Turner also cut himself.” She said he hadn’t done anything to get rid of the knife.

Judge Terrence Boren said that while Turner may well have loved Clary, it’s not pertinent. Boren said there was planning and thought put into the crime. “He intended to kill her. It’s a sad set of circumstances.”

Turner’s arraignment in Marin County Superior Court is set for Sept. 15, at 9 a.m.

The ‘love of his life’

Rodgers said he spoke with someone staying with a neighbor who said he didn’t hear any fights or anything unusual in the week leading up to Turner’s arrest. Rodgers said the man reported seeing Turner the morning of April 18 and said he was “strange, quiet and disoriented.”

Other neighbors described Turner as gentle and much in love with Clary, Rodgers said. “They were dependent on each other.”

Campbell said, “The man is honest to a fault.” She said she never knew Turner to be violent. She described Turner and Clary together. “Avril was the love of his life. He was outwardly affectionate with her.”

Similarly, Royal-Ratmour said Turner spoke of a difficult relationship, but that she was the women he loved most in his life.

In the 16 months prior to Clary’s death, the Sausalito Police Department had responded to 13 calls for service at Turner and Clary’s residence for reasons that included noise complaints, drunk-and-disorderly conduct, two attempts to serve warrants, fraud investigation and a suicide attempt Turner made last December.

Turner was unemployed. Clary, 46, was the owner of an online interior-design business. She relocated to the Bay Area from Colorado after the death of her husband, a Denver dental surgeon, in 2002.

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