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Tenn. inmate gets 30 years for 1999 WV slaying

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A man who confessed to killing a Charleston woman 14 years ago and dumping her nude body along a Roane County road was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Daniel Turner, 46, was a federal prisoner in Memphis, Tenn., when DNA evidence linked him to the crime.

Turner admitted he killed Terry Clark, 41, at her Lewis Street apartment in May 1999. He told a judge at his plea hearing last month he believed he was set up for a drug deal and robbery, and he killed Clark believing she was responsible.

But while Clark's body was found, the murderer never was, and the incident became part of the cold case file until this year.

Turner told Circuit Judge James Stucky that he always knew the crime would catch up with him.

"I always knew I'd answer for this one day," Turner said. "It did take me a long time. But I've had a lot of people in my family pass away, too. So I know a lot about love and about death.

"When the detective came, it really was a relief," he said.  

Turner apologized to Clark's family, who attended the hearing and sat directly behind him in the courtroom.

Assistant Prosecutor Regan Whitmyer read a letter given to the judge by Clark's stepmother, Ruth Clark of Charleston. The woman cried as she listened to it being read.

"I was married to Terry's father, Paul, for 25 years," she wrote. "He died never getting closure in the death of his daughter. Now the mystery is solved as to who and why, but it does not erase the last 15 years of anxiety and heartbreak we suffered."

She said Paul Clark agonized over his daughter's murder and wished it could be solved.

"He had days and nights of pure hell, not knowing who killed Terry," Clark wrote in the letter. "I loved her as my own daughter. Terry still remains in the avenues of my mind with memories that never leave me."

When Turner rose to speak to the judge, he clutched a copy of that letter.

"I'll probably keep it with me for a long time," he said.

Prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence of 30 years after Turner entered into a plea agreement and pleaded to a charge of second-degree murder. The judge could have sentenced him to 10 to 40 years.

Kanawha Chief Public Defender George Castille asked Stucky to impose a sentence in the lower end of that range. He said Turner was a transformed man who truly expressed remorse.

Castille said Turner's parents suffered from mental illness and were abusive, and he was shuffled to various foster homes. Turner himself had mental issues but had sought treatment.

Turner has been incarcerated in Tennessee since 2004 on federal drug and weapons charges. His attorney agreed that his criminal history was extensive.

Whitmyer said last month she didn't believe Turner would have ever confessed if the DNA evidence had not surfaced.

The judge said Turner will serve his sentence concurrent with the federal sentence, which will expire in 2015. But the remainder of the 30-year sentence will continue after that.

After the hearing, Ruth Clark said she felt the sentence was fair.

"It does bring some closure, yes," she said.

The victim's cousin, Sally Bergur of Institute, said, "We forgave him before we ever knew who he was. But we just wanted to see justice. You can't do something wrong and not pay."

Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at cherylc@dailymail.com or 348-4832. 


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