The Tragic Story of Dustin Turner
His Whole Life Changed in an Instant
A murder case that left an innocent man, former Navy SEAL Trainee Dustin Turner, sentenced to 82 years in prison…without parole (parole was abolished in Virginia in 1995).
To understand what really happened, we need to go back to June 19, 1995 and Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Dusty was just 20 years old. He and his “swim buddy” Billy Brown, who was 23, were about to complete SEAL Tactical Training at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia. They were celebrating at the Bayou nightclub in Virginia Beach. It was around 1:45 a.m. Monday morning and Dusty and Jennifer Evans had been enjoying each other’s company for several hours. They walked out to his car to wait for her friends to return from a coffee shop down the road.
Billy Brown had been drinking heavily all night and was very drunk when he staggered out to Dusty’s car. He got into the back seat on the passenger side and began insulting Jennifer with obscene comments and pulling her hair. When she slapped his hand away, he suddenly lunged forward in a drunken rage, whipped his arms around her neck in a forceful choke hold, and killed her instantly. Dusty instinctively began prying and clawing Brown’s hands off Jennifer yelling “Let her go, just let her go!”
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Finally realizing that Jennifer was dead, Dusty was in total shock and disbelief. Brown screamed at him to “Drive! Just f……drive!” Dusty stopped thinking, and in a panic reacted to his intensive SEAL training that screamed to him “always protect your swim buddy” regardless of the cost. His instinct for survival and misplaced loyalty to Brown took over as he started the engine and drove out of the parking lot.
Dusty and Brown drove west from Virginia Beach on I-64 to a park just off the highway. They carried Jennifer’s body to a wooded area and covered it with leaves and twigs. They then returned to the car and drove back to Fort A.P. Hill.
For eight days, Dusty agonized about protecting Brown by remaining silent about what had happened that night. Back in Virginia Beach, Jennifer’s disappearance was causing a media frenzy. Unable to bear the increasing burden he was carrying, Dusty went to his commanding officer. He told him the truth about what had happened and said that he could protect his swim buddy no longer.
During his trial in 1996, Brown lied in his testimony saying that Dusty alone had murdered Jennifer. Brown was convicted of first degree murder, abduction and attempted rape, and sentenced to 72 years in prison.
Three months later, with an outraged community and media, Dusty was convicted of first degree murder and abduction, and sentenced to 82 years in prison, 10 more years than Brown received! The foreman of the jury later disclosed that several members believed that Dusty was innocent of murder and abduction.
Since he first told his story to his commanding officer, Dusty has steadfastly maintained his innocence, acknowledging that he was guilty only of being an accessory-after-the-fact. His story has never varied or changed. This offense is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail. To date, Dusty has served nearly 18 years in prison, half of his life.
In 2002, Billy Brown confessed to Jennifer Evans’ murder and said that Dusty played no part in it. Dusty then petitioned for a “writ of actual innocence” and his conviction was overturned by a three-judge panel of the Virginia State Court of Appeals. The State Attorney General’s Office quickly appealed this decision and the original Court of Appeals ruling was overturned. In 2011, the Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed the Court of Appeals ruling. This ruling was based on a new theory that Dusty intended to kidnap and harm Jennifer.