CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A murder case that went unsolved since 1999 reached a conclusion with a guilty plea in Kanawha County Circuit Court on Monday.
Daniel Turner, 46, a federal prisoner in Memphis, Tenn., pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in connection with the death of 41-year-old Terry Clark of Lewis Street in Charleston. Police said DNA evidence finally linked him to the crime.
Clark's nude body was discovered May 27, 1999 beside U.S. 119 near Walton in Roane County. Charleston police found her apartment had been broken into, but were never able to find her murderer. The crime was added to a list of cold cases.
In court Monday, Assistant Prosecutor Reagan Whitmyer told a judge that a national DNA database linked DNA collected in 1999 to Turner's. A Charleston detective traveled to Memphis and secured a confession.
Clark's family members expressed gratitude to police and prosecutors, but said the woman's father died without ever knowing who killed her or why.
"We did doubt that it would ever be solved. It has been so long," said Clark's cousin, Sally Bergur of Institute. "Over the years people would come up and say so-and-so murdered Terry, and it was hard.
"She was a vital part of our family," Bergur said. "And we loved her. What happened to her was incomprehensible."
Whitmyer told Kanawha Circuit Judge James Stucky that Turner admitted that he went to Clark's residence hoping to do a drug deal, but instead the other party pulled a gun on him. Believing Clark had set him up, he turned on her and beat her, and then strangled her with a shoelace.
He dumped the body in Roane County, about 12 miles from where he was living with his father, she said.
In exchange for Turner's guilty plea, Whitmyer will recommend a 30-year sentence to be served concurrently with his penalty for weapons and drug violations. But the judge could sentence him from 10 to 40 years.
Turner will be sentenced Aug. 29.
Bergur said she forgave the man long ago.