## Woman's Post Online Helps Crack Her Missing Sister's Case Decades Later

 

May 17, 2001 — the last time Sarah Turney saw her 17-year-old half-sister Alissa alive. For years, the circumstances surrounding Alissa's sudden disappearance haunted Sarah day and night, leading her on a desperate search for answers in the hope of finally uncovering the truth. But as Sarah dug deeper into Alissa's mysterious fate, she discovered that the one person she spent years protecting was actually the one she should've feared most.

Runaway

Strangely enough, her sister's disappearance didn't faze Sarah much at first. Alissa would talk openly and often about her desire to run away to California, so when the high schooler vanished on that May morning, 12-year-old Sarah wasn't surprised.

Sarah Turney

She'll Be Back

In fact, Sarah even found a note left behind in Alissa’s room seemingly confirming that she was headed for the Golden State. It still hurt to be without her, but at least Sarah could rest assured that her sister was safe and chasing her dreams. Surely she'd have to come back eventually.

sippingonsomecrime.com

No Worries

"I wasn't worried," Sarah told People. "I was under the impression she was going to be back. I don't think her being gone forever was anything that ever crossed my mind." After all, Sarah had already seen enough tragedy for one lifetime.

Sarah Turney

Tragic Loss

When Sarah was just four years old, her mother, Barbara Strahm, died from lung cancer. The Turney family vowed to stick together in the wake of their tragic loss — following Alissa's disappearance, however, this pact suddenly seemed to lose its meaning.

Sarah Turney

Accusations Begin

That's because before long, strangers and friends alike begin accusing Sarah's father and Alissa's step-father Michael of having a hand in his step-daughter's disappearance. Sarah was quick to defend him: after all, what kind of person would dare harm their own child?

Sarah Turney

Something's Off

Sarah's confidence combined with Michael's standing as a former sheriff's deputy helped shift some of the suspicion, though even his fellow officers couldn't help but feel something wasn't right. For a man who insisted he had no idea what happened to his step-daughter, there sure were a number of clues to the contrary.

Sarah Turney

Never Showed

For starters, on the day Alissa vanished, Michael told police he'd taken her out for lunch, though he dropped her back home after the two had an argument. He then claimed that, fuming from their fight, Alissa had run off to stay with an aunt who lived in California — when police contacted the aunt, she said her niece never showed.

Sarah Turney

Strange Behavior

A week later, Michael reached out to police again, telling them Alissa had called him from a payphone in Riverside, California — before the officer could ask him any follow-ups, he immediately ended the call. Was this the erratic behavior of a grieving father, or was there perhaps something more?

ABC

Taking Over

With no formal evidence against Michael the police began pursuing other leads, though these too failed to turn up anything on Alissa's whereabouts. Frustrated, Sarah decided there was no point in waiting around any longer — it was time to take matters into her own hands.

Sarah Turney

Private Eye

And so, Sarah became her own private eye, creating a website dedicated to finding justice for Alissa and searching for answers however she could. Yet time and time again, her findings only seemed to add more weight to the whispers she'd been denying for years: maybe her father had done something to her sister after all.

Alissa Turney

Grim Realization

In her late 20s, following years of investigation, it finally became clear to Sarah that her father was, in fact, capable of this crime: "For me, it was kind of like a switch." But if she was going to prove Michael's guilt, she knew she couldn't do it alone.

Sarah Turney

Internet Help

That's why along with a podcast called "Voices for Justice," Sarah began making TikToks to help bring her investigation to a wider audience. To her surprise, the videos soon went viral — including one that actually got local officials to reopen Alissa's case.

Sarah Turney

Disturbing Rumors

In a disturbing home video snippet from 1997, a 13-year-old Alissa can clearly be heard telling Sarah that "dad is a pervert." Authorities were quick to follow up on these claims with some of Alissa's friends, who revealed a sickening truth.

Sarah Turney

Shocking Allegations

In addition to verbal abuse, Alissa's friends alleged that Michael had been sexually abusing her for years as well. Finally, officers decided it was time to seek a search warrant, though what they found inside his home was far more sinister than they ever expected.

Criminal Justice Alliance

Murderous Intent

Along with dozens of homemade bombs, officers discovered a 97-page manifesto detailing a plot to commit mass murder at the headquarters of a local electrical workers union. Michael was convicted of possession of unregistered destructive devices and served seven years in prison, though for Sarah, this wasn't enough.

12 News / YouTube

More Evidence

That's why following her father's release, Sarah only continued to press onward with her mission, eventually leading police to even more incriminating evidence. Officers discovered that Michael had actually installed surveillance cameras throughout his home during the time Alissa was living there, and he even monitored all calls going in and out of the house.

Home Security Store

Chilling Contracts

But perhaps the worst discovery of all was that of a number of homemade "contracts" between Michael and Alissa, including one from 1999 that stated Michael had never molested her. After years of uncertainty, law enforcement — and Sarah — finally had all they needed.

Sarah Turney

Second-Degree Murder

On August 19, 2020, a grand jury indicted 72-year-old Michael Turney on one count of second-degree murder. The case is set to go to trial sometime in 2021, though Michael, just like always, still maintains he's innocent.

Maricopa County Sheriff's Office

Obsessed

Authorities, however, believe Michael was "obsessed" with his step-daughter, with even close relatives saying he treated her far different than other children — even Sarah. He'd even confessed to spying on Alissa at work using a pair of binoculars on multiple occasions.

Sarah Turney

Justice For Alissa

As for Sarah, she remains optimistic that Alissa will soon have justice, and she even believes she's found a calling in helping to solve cold cases. In all her research she came across quite a few of these, but there was one so shocking that she just couldn't get it out of her head: the Sodder family. It all began on Christmas morning.

Kaylin Dunnett

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