The stepfather of a 17-year-old girl who was missing for nearly 20 years has been charged in her presumed death.
Michael Roy Turney, 72, was arrested Thursday afternoon while driving in Mesa, according to charging documents. Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel and the Phoenix Police Department said he faces a second-degree murder charge in the disappearance of Alissa Turney.
Ms. Adel declined to say what evidence led to the arrest, only that a grand jury issued an indictment.
“As county attorney, this is the work that matters. It is why I became a prosecutor,” Ms. Adel stated. “Seeking justice for victims of crime and their families will always be job one for this office. Being a voice for those who can no longer speak for themselves guides this office, every single day, as we seek to do the right thing for the right reasons.”
It was not immediately known if Michael Turney had an attorney to comment on his behalf. Court documents list an Apache Junction residence for the defendant.
Alissa Turney was last seen in 2001 at her north Phoenix home after the last day of her junior year at Paradise Valley High School. On that day, she poked her head into her boyfriend’s woodworking class and said her stepfather was taking her out of school early, MCAO stated. She has never been seen or heard from again.
Her stepfather told authorities he picked her up from school early and they had lunch. At the time, he said she later left a note saying she was running away to California.
“Due to her age and with no obvious signs of exigency, a report was filed, and her name was entered in the missing persons database,” Phoenix police stated in a release. “In the early years of the investigation, Alissa Turney’s dental records and family DNA were collected for comparison to unidentified missing remains. Several years went by with no leads to Alissa’s whereabouts, however she remained a missing person in open files and national databases.”
In 2008, investigators re-interviewed witnesses and ended up serving search warrants on Michael Turney’s home. That indirectly led to the discovery of more than two dozen unregistered pipe bombs belonging to Michael Turney. He later served 10 years for those crimes.
In early 2019, after developing probable cause that Alissa Turney was the victim of a homicide and Michael Turney was the suspect, detectives submitted the case to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. On Thursday, Aug. 20, officers arrested Michael Turney in the area of 8900 East University Drive in Mesa.
Alissa Turney’s sister, Sarah Turney, has tried to keep attention on the case through a website, podcasts and YouTube videos.
On June 8, Sarah Turney stated on Twitter that Phoenix police were submitting her sister’s case to the MCAO for charges against Michael Turney.
“I cannot thank you all enough for sharing her story,” she stated. “It’s not over yet, but we are a lot closer to #justiceforalissa”
After authorities announced the arrest Thursday, she shared her thoughts once again on Twitter.
“I’m shaking and I’m crying. We did it you guys,” Sarah Turney stated on Twitter. “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.”
Michael Turney was booked into jail in lieu of $500,000 bond with a court date Aug. 28.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.