Investigators found no physical evidence linking a 31-year-old man to the 2006 slayings of seven family members in their home, but statements the man made before the attack and his actions afterward would prove he fired the fatal gunshots, a prosecutor said Monday.
Desmond Turner told others he planned to "hit a lick," — slang for commit a robbery — before the June 1, 2006, attack that left four adults and three children dead in their home, Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi said during his opening statements in Turner's murder trial.
Detectives did not find the gun used to kill Emma Valdez and her family members, and they found no DNA or fingerprint evidence linking Turner to the attack. But Brizzi told Judge Robert Altice that other evidence would prove without question that Turner pulled the trigger.
Turner, who sat silently in leg shackles throughout the proceedings, is charged with seven counts of murder and faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted. Prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty in exchange for Turner waiving his right to a jury trial.
‘Prosecuting the wrong man’
Defense attorney Lorinda Youngcourt said evidence would show the slayings were the result of a neighborhood feud that had nothing to do with Turner.
"The state of Indiana is prosecuting the wrong man," Youngcourt said.
The only real evidence the state would offer were the "gut-wrenching photographs" of the victims lying in pools of blood that Brizzi showed the court earlier Monday, she said.
Brizzi said the scene in the home was "a brutal, ghoulish nightmare" and described how police officers who entered a back bedroom found "three children lined up in their bed, executed."
He outlined how witnesses led police to Turner, whose clothes were found soaking in a tub at a girlfriend's house the next day, and how Turner "compelled" friends to drive him to Kentucky after seeing his picture on television. Police found an unused bullet similar to those used in the killings at the girlfriend's house, though the murder weapon — an assault rifle — has not been found, Brizzi said.
Turner left the state because "he was scared," and said no blood was found on her client's clothes, Youngcourt said. Turner surrendered to authorities after his friends drove him back to Indianapolis after he fell asleep, according to court documents.
Money and jewelry left behind
One eyewitness said she saw three to five black men flee the house instead of the two prosecutors claim, and that one relative of the slain family blamed the killings on another family in the neighborhood, Youngcourt said.
Prosecutors say Turner and a co-defendant invaded the home because they believed it contained a safe full of money and drugs. But Youngcourt said the theory doesn't add up, because hundreds of dollars and women's jewelry were left behind.
"You must look beyond the photos," Youngcourt told Judge Robert Altice. "You must acknowledge that the evidence doesn't exist."
Those killed were Valdez, her husband, their two adult children, two young children and a grandchild.