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Teen Vanished in 2001 on Last Day of School. Now, an Arrest

Michael Turney, stepdad to missing 17-year-old Alissa Turney, has been charged
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 21, 2020 1:15 PM CDT
Updated Aug 23, 2020 10:30 AM CDT

(Newser) – In 2001, a high school junior from Phoenix disappeared on her last day of school. Now, nearly two decades later, a suspect is in custody, thanks to her sister's perseverance and dogged investigative work. Arrested Thursday in Mesa, Ariz., and charged with second-degree murder in the case of Alissa Turney: her stepfather, Michael Turney, per NBC News. Authorities say that after 17-year-old Alissa was last seen on May 17, 2001, Turney told police he'd picked her up from school, gone to lunch with her, and then argued with her because she wanted more freedom. When they got home, he said, a still-miffed Alissa went to her room, while he left to run errands and pick up her younger half-sister, Sarah. Per police, Turney said he found a note from her when he got home saying she'd left for California. Cops didn't suspect foul play and she was thought to be a runaway.

In 2006, a Florida man confessed to her murder, but that was found to be false. Alissa's case was reopened in Phoenix, however, after investigators heard allegations that Turney had sexually abused her. Police showed up at their home with a search warrant in late 2008 and found surveillance video from around the house, as well as 19 assault rifles, gasoline cans stashed in a van, and 26 pipe bombs, which police believe Turney meant to use to blow up a union hall. He served seven years in prison after pleading guilty for possessing the explosives and was released in 2017. Per the Arizona Republic, Alissa's mother, who'd married Michael Turney when Alissa was 3, died of cancer before her daughter went missing. Sarah Turney, who's been seeking justice for her sibling for years, reacted Thursday to her father's arrest. "I'm shaking and I'm crying," she tweeted. "It took almost 20 years but we did it." (Read more murder stories.)

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