Pauls Valley Democrat
A case involving the controversial gunshot death of a Garvin County resident more than a dozen years ago is now getting new life.
County Sheriff Larry Rhodes said this week his office has reopened an investigation into the 2000 death of Chanda Turner.
It was back on July 12, 2000 when Turner died as the result of a gunshot to the chest at a rural residence outside of Pauls Valley.
Ever since the tragic shooting Turner family members and others have adamantly contested the original finding the woman’s death was a suicide.
Rhodes confirmed on Tuesday top officials in the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s office have recently amended that cause of death to “unknown.”
Since the death in 2000, new information has been made available to law enforcement, which includes a 2002 reinvestigation at the crime scene, a 2009 exhumation and autopsy and additional witnesses coming forward, according to Rhodes.
“For whatever reasons, this information has never been brought forward and thoroughly investigated,” Rhodes said.
Soon after stepping in as Garvin County’s sheriff, Rhodes said he was first contacted with information previously not available to investigators concerning the death.
This past January the sheriff’s office opened a formal review of the shooting death. A criminal investigation is now underway.
“The role of any criminal investigation is to seek the truth through accurate and thorough reporting of the facts and circumstances,” Rhodes said.
“Clearly, this was not the case in this investigation.”
The sheriff added there were significant errors committed during the initial investigation which led to a conclusion made at the crime scene that Turner’s death was a suicide.
These errors included alteration of the crime scene, failure to interview witnesses and a decision to not perform an autopsy in 2000 following the violent death, according to Rhodes.
“The fundamental errors made in the initial investigation have led to the need for this case to be re-examined,” he said.
“We now have the opportunity to collectively review all the evidence in the death that has been gathered over the past 12 years.”
He admits there are challenges in investigating a case that’s 12 years old, which could include some people not being available to investigators, along with the loss of evidence.
At the same time Rhodes says the passing of time can also help an investigation.
“It is common for additional persons to come forward with information that they may not have been willing to testify to before,” he said.
“Additionally, advances in criminal forensics and in the area of DNA evidence may aid investigators when re-examining physical evidence.”
Rhodes will not comment directly on specific evidence or new witnesses in order to protect the integrity of the investigation.
He made it clear he wants the family of Chanda Turner and the public to know the death will receive a full and impartial investigation by the sheriff’s office based on all the information gathered as a result of his office’s current investigation.