The Unsolved Disappearance Of Alissa Turney

Monday, 29 July 2019


Edit: Hi, before you go much further I just want to alert you of a petition that is running at the moment about this case - CLICK HERE. If this petition receives 100K signatures by the time the 30 days are up, the White House have to review the case against Michael Turney (you can sign from anywhere so don't worry about location) which would be excellent news for Sarah, who is campaigning for justice. 

Remember to confirm your email address too! The petition ends on October 24, 2019

Alissa

Alissa Marie Turney was born on April 3rd of 1984, in Phoenix, Arizona. 
Alissa was the daughter of Barbara Lee Farmer and Steven Strahm, and a sibling to John, her older brother. When Alissa was just three years old, Barbara met and married Michael Roy Turney, who had three sons of his own. Michael later adopted Alissa and they became a large, happy, integrated family. Around a year later, her younger sister Sarah Turney was born. 

"That is my favorite picture of me and Alissa. If you look closely you can see a small tear in her right eye. She was crying because she wanted to hold me, she was only four. Our older brother told her that if she did, she would most definitely drop me and kill me. She had a meltdown. Until, she was sat down and I was put in her arms..." - Sarah Turney

A few years after the birth of Sarah, their mother Barbara was diagnosed with lung cancer. Despite aggressive chemotherapy, she sadly passed away shortly after. Alissa was nine years old, and Sarah was just four. As a result of their mothers death, they both were left in the care of their father, Michael Turney, who never re-married. 

Sarah describes the death of her mother as having a large impact on their father, and claims he had fallen into a deep depression. He had also lost his job due to a knee injury, and began to claim disability benefits as a result. Sarah was young and doesn't remember much, but her older brothers claimed to no longer recognise him and his behaviour, during this period of time. 
This is also when he began to treat his two daughters differently, with Alissa being subject to the controlling and manipulating side of their father that Sarah never seen.

Teenage Years

As Alissa began to get older, Michael's behaviour towards her appeared similar to that of a jealous partner, as opposed to a father. He frequently showed up at her place of work, and would record her inside of the building, to check she was telling the truth about where she was going. He put CCTV cameras around their house in secret locations to monitor her, and at one point even showed her boyfriend a video of her kissing another boy on their sofa, in hopes that he would separate from Alissa. He would also regularly pick petty fights with Alissa's boyfriend, to further drive a wedge between them both. Michael made Alissa sign contracts with expectations and rules of behaviour that she had to abide to, would interview the parents of her friends and even recorded all of her phone calls so he could listen to what she was saying behind his back. Alissa had a strong resemblance to her mother, and many wonder if this is why Michael was so obsessed with spying on her and keeping her safe.  


On the other hand, Sarah describes her childhood as amazing. Her father never monitored her behaviour at all. He let her drink alcohol as a young child and she could stay up late and eat junk food whenever she wanted. All of her friends thought he was the 'coolest dad' because Sarah could essentially get away with whatever she wanted. She even goes on to call her father her best friend during her childhood, and says she could tell him anything and ask for anything and he would've got it for her. Looking back, she realises that this was completely neglectful and inappropriate, and probably a tactic he used to cover up what he was doing to Alissa. He would say things to Sarah like "I didn't do anything to you", "I was a good father to you", to make it look like Alissa was telling lies. He also made Alissa look like a rebellious wild child to anyone who would listen. 

Michael claims to have treat Alissa differently because she had ADD (ADHD) and additional needs, and insinuated that this meant she needed to be 'protected' more than Sarah. He mocked Alissa's intelligence regularly and manipulated her into thinking that she needed him to help her make decisions to avoid getting into trouble or hurt. There is video evidence of him calling Alissa a 'stupid moron' after she shouts "dad's a pervert", aged just 13 years old. Sarah insists that Alissa was never professionally diagnosed with any additional needs, was doing well in school, had an excellent memory, and feels as though this was fabricated by their father to further paint a problematic picture of Alissa. 

Shortly before Alissa's disappearance, she was caught smoking marijuana. Michael was furious and threatened to send Alissa to live with his sister in California, expecting the Aunt to say no. Surprisingly, the aunt accepted, Alissa wanted to go, and Michael decided not to send her after all. Some wonder if this is because he was afraid she would open up about what exactly was happening at home, or if he feared he would lose control of Alissa completely. 

Disappearance

Alissa Marie Turney disappeared on May 17th, 2001, aged just 17. 

She was sharing a house with her younger sister Sarah, who was 12, and her father.

On the day of the disappearance, Michael claims that he picked Alissa up early from school so they could have lunch together. It was her last day of the school year. Alissa went to find her boyfriend in his class to explain that she was leaving early, and told him that she would see him later. Michael then claims that during lunch, him and Alissa got into an argument about her being allowed more freedom and not having a curfew. He told her that whilst she was under his roof, she had to stick to his rules, and this apparently infuriated Alissa. He then dropped her off at home, angry and upset, and drove away to collect Sarah. 

A few hours later, Sarah finished school and waited for her dad to pick her up. He didn't show. Sarah described Michael as being late regularly, and so she didn't think anything was wrong. She decided to walk to a friends house and sent him a text message to explain where she was, and would wait for him to pick her up there. He arrived almost 2 hours later, and appeared overly panicked that he could not get hold of Alissa. Sarah said she had just been smoking cigarettes with her friend, and she expected to get into trouble. She claims that her only rule was not to smoke, given that their mother died of lung cancer. Her dad did not say anything to her about the smell of smoke on her clothes, which she thought was really odd, as she knew he'd be able to smell it. Instead, he threw Sarah his phone and asked her to try giving Alissa a call. 

Sarah called, but Alissa didn't answer.

Upon arriving home, Sarah found the contents of Alissa's backpack emptied out, her phone and a note, that read "Dad and Sarah, when you dropped me off at school today, I decided that I really am going to California. Sarah, you said you didn't want me around. Look, you got it, I'm gone. That's why I saved my money. Dad I took $300 from you", and it was signed by Alissa at the bottom. 

Sarah admits she didn't think anything of it, as Alissa had threatened to run away so many times before. Michael phoned the police later that day to tell them that his daughter had ran away to California. Although she was reported missing by him, the police took his word for it that she was a runaway and didn't investigate further. 

It is also worth noting that Michael had previously worked for law enforcement, and would have known exactly what to say to the police to get them to show up immediately. He also would have known exactly what to say to keep them away. 

Michael claimed that a week after her disappearance, Alissa called the house from California, swore at her father and told him to leave her alone. 

She has never spoken to any of her friends, family or her boyfriend since. 


Suspicion

The note that Alissa left behind was analysed, and was confirmed to be her handwriting, however, the note was not dated and contradicts exactly what Michael claimed happened that day. The note places the blame on both Sarah and Michael and provides no mention of an argument at lunch, freedom, or anything similar.

Sarah also claims that the signature was different to Alissa's usual signature, and appeared messy. She believes that Alissa had written this note during a previous argument with Sarah and backed out of her plan to leave, and that Michael had kept it. Sarah also believes that the cash stolen from their father was appropriately used to provide an explanation as to why Alissa did not withdraw the $1800 savings she had in her bank account. Michael knew he would be unable to retrieve any of her money without being caught on CCTV, and so it was left untouched.

If she had ran away, she didn't take a single one of her possessions with her. 

Despite having hidden cameras that covered every corner of the house, inside and out, and a phone call recording device, the phone call from California and the footage taken from inside of the house the day Alissa went missing were never found. Michael claims he forgot to turn on the telephone recording device, but Sarah claims that it was always on and you had to turn it off manually if you wanted to have a private conversation. As for the video security system, he had apparently reviewed all of the footage himself from that day, and decided none of it was important and deleted it.

Alissa's disappearance was never investigated by the police in the early stages, and the case had flown under the radar completely. That was until 2008, when Thomas Albert Hymer, a convicted murderer, pointed out a picture of Alissa and told a prison guard that he had murdered her along with 21 other women, claiming "he would make him famous". The police interviewed Hymer and quickly realised that he wasn't telling the truth, describing Alissa as a heroin addict and discussing intimate details that both her friends, family and boyfriend strongly denied. After dismissing Hymer's story, the police quickly realised that Alissa still hadn't touched the money in her bank account or used her social security number since 2001, and finally began an investigation closer to home.  

After speaking to Michael and other members of the family, the police began to seriously doubt the 'runaway' story they had believed for almost 10 years. They quickly learnt about Michael's surveillance of Alissa's every move, the father/daughter contracts he made her sign and the missing footage and recordings from the day she vanished, all of which were serious red flags in their eyes.

Inconsistencies in Mike's timeline were also noted. He claimed to take Alissa to lunch at around 11am, and Sarah said he didn't arrive to pick her up until around 7pm, despite Michael claiming to have dropped Alissa home straight after lunch to pick Sarah up. This leaves a large empty space of time unaccounted for. Along with this, picking her up early on the last day of school for no particular reason, knowing she wasn't going to 'be missed' by anyone over the summer also raised eyebrows. 

Michael Roy Turney



In early December of 2008, detectives sat Sarah down and explained to her that her father was now a suspect in Alissa's disappearance, and that day, she learned for the first time that they had reason to believe that Alissa was being molested by her father. 

According to the police, many of Alissa's friends, family members and even a teacher of hers came forward to express concerns about their relationship, and that Alissa had actually admitted to many of them at some point that her father had sexually abused her. Many believe the abuse had occurred after her mother had died, aged 9, and nobody had thought to act on it or tell anybody until they realised that there was a high chance Alissa was no longer alive. 
As well as this, police found a contract that was signed by Alissa, which had been drafted by Michael to confirm that he had never sexually abused her. It later came out that he had called the child protective services a few weeks before she disappeared, claiming that Alissa was about to falsely report him for child sexual abuse. He acted concerned and was apparently checking where he would stand and what he could do if she did accuse him, all of which seems incredibly suspicious to me. 

The above has caused speculation that Alissa may have been pregnant at the time of her disappearance, or may have threatened to finally expose her father and his behaviour. Although both are a possibility, there is no evidence available to suggest this was the case. 

Around this time, police raided the home of Michael and Sarah Turney, with the intent of finding the missing surveillance from the day Alissa vanished. Instead, they found 26 pipe bombs, hand made explosives, 19 loaded high-caliber rifles, handmade silencers and a van filled with gas. They also discovered a 98 page manifesto he had written, where he called himself a 'martyr' and described a terrorist attack he was planning to carry out on a local union he had problems with years prior.

According to Sarah, he spent years of her childhood in a paranoid state, believing members of the union were trying to kill him. Michael was arrested, charged with weapon offences and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He served 7 of those years before being released in 2017. 


Sarah Turney

Shortly after the release of her father in 2017, Sarah met up with Michael in a coffee shop to talk to him about Alissa. She asked him outright if he had killed her, and he replied "be there at the death bed Sarah, and I will give you all the honest answers you want to hear". Even though Sarah had captured her father saying this on a hidden recording device, the police will not accept it as evidence. 

Sarah admits that it took her a long while to come to terms with all of the evidence against her father. In fact, she actively supported him in media interviews, and describes herself as being the last member of the family to believe that Michael had killed Alissa. Sarah has stated many times that it upsets her that she is the only one of her family members advocating for justice, despite knowing that they all believe the same as her - that her father was the one who took Alissa's life.  

At this point, Sarah has accepted that Alissa is no longer alive. She doesn't believe that Alissa would have been able to completely go off the grid at 17 years old, with just $300, never contacting a single person she loved again, and certainly not if she knew Sarah was fighting for justice, without letting her know she is okay. 

Sarah has stated that she believes her father may have buried Alissa in the desert, or underneath of the Desert Ridge Mall which was being built at the same time she vanished. If this is the case, the likelihood of her body being found is very slim. Sarah has contacted the shopping centre to ask if she would be able to use ground penetrating technology, if she could get the funds to do so, but they have ignored every attempt she has made at contact, as they presumably want to avoid any negative media attention. On a recent live interview with Stephanie Harlowe, Sarah said that she isn't expecting to find her body and doesn't believe it would bring her closure, as she has already accepted that she is no longer alive. Instead, she wants her father to have a fair trial, where a jury can deem him guilty or not guilty. She believes her father will never confess to killing Alissa and will take the answers to his grave. 

Sarah also mentions that her father has a habit of persuing legal action against anyone that decides to cross him. She joked that as a child, she used to tell her friends that "suing people" was her fathers job. I believe this may be a factor in why the police aren't pushing for more interviews or evidence, knowing it may result in legal action taken against them, if he is found 'not guilty'. 

Sarah has a rocky relationship with the police who are investigating Alissa's case. She blames them for not coming round to the house the day Alissa vanished, inevitably losing any potential evidence they could have found at the time. The police persuaded Sarah that her father was guilty in 2008, and later told her there was nothing they could do about it. This rightfully infuriated Sarah. They have since told her that the only way to move this case forward would be pressure via media attention.  

To this day, Michael Roy Turney has not been convicted of the murder of his step-daughter, and denies all involvement in her disappearance. He refuses to give a formal police interview, or his DNA, in order to help the investigation.

There are currently no other suspects in Alissa's disappearance.

"She never stopped fighting for me and I will never stop fighting for her." - Sarah Turney.

***


You're probably wondering why I am covering an American case. Well, although I know the majority of my audience is from the UK, I know how important it is that this gets as much attention as possible to move forward, from all areas of the globe. Any attention is positive attention and could really help the outcome of this case, bringing Alissa the justice she deserves. I also applaud her sister Sarah for fighting so hard, and could only hope my siblings would do that for me. Sarah is hoping that this case is covered by a platform like Netflix in order to reach 'Making A Murderer' levels. I am a small fish in a big pond, but if even one person reads this and tweets, or signs the petition, I will feel as though I have helped in some way.

Ways you can help:

  • Tweet Netflix asking if they can cover this case. There is plenty of evidence, footage and twists in this story to make it excellent viewing, but would also help to spread information about Alissa’s case across the world, which would put pressure on the police in Phoenix.
  • Tweet Shane Dawson asking him to cover this case. 
  • Tweet using the #JusticeForAlissa hashtag to spread awareness  
  • Share Sarah’s website - https://justiceforalissa.com/
  • Sign this petition
  • Keeping up to date with the case by following Sarah on Twitter at @SarahETurney 
  • Sharing a video from YouTube about the case. I will link some below.
  • Writing about it yourself. 
Important YouTube videos:


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