Nearly 20 years after a teenager named Alissa Turney went missing, there’s finally been an arrest made related to her disappearance. The case gained attention after Alissa’s sister, Sarah Turney, started the hashtag #JusticeForAlissa and began advocating for her sister on social media sites, including TikTok. But who exactly is Alissa — and what happened to her? Get the details below.
Alissa went missing in 2001.
According to the National Institute of Justice’s Missing and Unidentified Persons System, Alissa was 17 when she disappeared on May 17, 2001. The teenager, whose mother died in 1992, lived with her step-father, Michael Roy Turney, and half-sister, Sarah. At approximately 11 a.m., Alissa was seen at her high school on the last day of her junior year. After her step-father picked her up early, he allegedly left her home alone. When he returned hours later, he claims he found a note from her stating that she ran away to California.
In 2016, The Arizona Republic reported that Alissa’s younger sister Sarah was the one to find the note. When Turney didn’t show up to pick her up after school, she and a friend walked to her home. When no one answered the door at the Turney residence, they went to her friend’s house, where she left a message for her dad to pick her up. Once he brought her home, they discovered a mess in Alissa’s room, the teen’s cell phone on her dresser and a note that read, “Sarah, you wanted me gone. Now you have it.”
In 2006, a man confessed to Alissa’s murder.
According to The Republic, Thomas Albert Hymer claimed he killed Alissa during a police investigation related to another murder. While serving life in prison for the 2001 murder of a woman named Sandra Goodman, he claimed he was a serial killer who had murdered 21 other girls and women. However, the details of his confession didn’t match what investigators knew about Alissa, and they later ruled out his involvement.
In 2008, Alissa’s step-father became an official suspect in her case.
Though he initially worked with the investigators, even providing home security footage of Alissa with boys he deemed to be suspects, Turney allegedly stopped cooperating in the investigation and refused to provide details or information about her last day at home or be part of a formal interview with police. Sarah told The Republic that investigators informed her in December 2008 that her father was officially a suspect and they believed he molested Alissa. When they arrested Turney later that day, they found him armed with a knife and a pair of guns. Inside his home, they discovered more than 30 improvised explosive devices and more weapons. In 2010, Turney pleaded guilty to possession of 26 pipe bombs and was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.
Sarah began advocating for her sister.
Sarah wrote on her website Justice for Alissa that she began advocating for her sister’s case around the same time her father was released from prison in 2017. “Our father is and always has been the only ‘person of interest’ in this case,” she wrote. The plan was to prosecute him for her murder once he was released for the bombs. They told me that way, he couldn’t combine sentences and serve less time. But, days before his release, the Phoenix Police Department reassigned the detectives that spent a decade of their lives dedicated to this case and told me they were not going to present this case to be prosecuted without a body. They refuse to look for that body. They recommended media coverage and that has been my mission ever since.”
In 2019, Sarah wrote an article titled “5 Reasons I Know My Father Killed My Sister, Alissa Turney,” which she published on Justice for Alissa and started a true crime podcast called Voices for Justice, which told Alissa’s story in its first season. She also began posting TikTok videos in April 2020. In her first video, which racked up 1.7 million views as of August 2020, she wrote, “When your dad killed your sister, and your family hates you for fighting for his prosecution.”
Turney was arrested in August 2020.
The case began to gain attention, and Sarah shared on Twitter in June 2020 that police were submitting Alissa’s case to the prosecutor’s office so charges against Turney could be reviewed. On Wednesday, August 19, Arizona’s Family reported Turney was indicted on charges of second-degree murder. On Thursday, August 20, he was finally arrested for his alleged role in Alissa’s disappearance, and he made his first court appearance on Friday, August 21.
“I’m shaking and I’m crying,” Sarah wrote on Twitter. “We did it, you guys. He’s been arrested. OMG. Thank you. #JusticeForAlissa. Never give up hope that you can get justice. It took almost 20 years, but we did it.”
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