Full parole board to make Brown decision

Tearful Karen Brown asks to be released from prison

She tells of her remorse, understands family's bitterness

jhewlett@herald-leader.comFebruary 3, 2011 

Two members of the Kentucky Parole Board could not reach a decision Wednesday about whether Karen Brown, incarcerated for nearly 25 years for her role in the murder of Michael Turpin of Lexington, should be released from prison.

So, the full nine-member parole board will meet Monday in Frankfort to decide.

Brown, crying, her voice shaking, told parole board members Monica Edmonds and George Carson, about the murder of Turpin, 22, and the events leading up to it, about her accomplishments while behind bars, and about what she might do if she's released from prison.

Brown, 46, brought about 45 letters and a petition signed by supporters.

The hearing Wednesday — the day before the 25th anniversary of Michael Turpin's death — was at the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women in Pewee Valley, where Brown is housed.

Brown said her mother and several other family members and friends were at the prison for the hearing.

It was the first parole hearing for Brown, who was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility for parole for 25 years. Brown will not be present at the hearing Monday at parole board offices in Frankfort.

If Edmonds and Carson had reached a decision, the case would not have gone to the full parole board. The two deliberated only a few minutes before telling Brown they were unable to reach a decision.

Brown was one of three people convicted of murder in the 1986 slaying, one of the state's most sensational murder cases. Also sentenced to lengthy prison sentences were Elizabeth Zehnder Turpin — Michael Turpin's wife of less than six months, who is said to have been the mastermind behind the plot to kill him — and Keith Bouchard, who admitted to stabbing Michael Turpin.

Prosecutors maintained that Elizabeth Turpin wanted her husband killed so she could collect $60,000 from insurance policies on him.

Brown, Elizabeth Turpin, and Bouchard met at Superior Nissan on Nicholasville Road, where they all worked. Brown and Elizabeth Turpin purportedly became lovers.

Brown told Edmonds and Carson that she got to know Elizabeth Turpin through their mutual drug use.

Elizabeth Turpin told Brown that Michael Turpin was abusive, she said.

"She had us all fearful," Brown said. But, she later told Edmonds and Carson, "I don't think he did anything to her."

Just before the slaying, Brown said, "There was no talk about murder." Instead, she said, the talk among the trio was about teaching Michael Turpin a lesson.

Brown and Bouchard left Brown's apartment, stopped by Bouchard's mobile home in Jessamine County, where Bouchard got some knives, then proceeded to the Turpins' Lexington apartment. Elizabeth Turpin stayed behind in Brown's apartment, Brown said.

When Brown and Bouchard reached the foot of the stairs leading to the Turpins' apartment, Bouchard told Brown he was going to kill Michael Turpin, she said.

"I said 'you can't do that.' He said 'yes I can,'" Brown said. "He said 'yeah, Liz wants him dead,'" she said.

Brown said Bouchard made her remove her coat before the two approached the apartment.

"I knocked on the door," Brown said.

"Knowing what he was going to do?" Edmonds asked.

"Yes, ma'am," Brown said.

She said Michael Turpin answered the door and Bouchard immediately began stabbing him. She said she didn't know why the neighbors didn't hear them.

Bouchard made her remove blankets from a bed, she said. Bouchard rolled up Turpin's body in the blankets, she said. The two drove to a pond, where Bouchard dumped Turpin's body, she said.

"He (Bouchard) drug him out of the car, into the water," she said. "I was sitting in the car."

The two returned to Brown's apartment, she said.

"When we walked in, she (Elizabeth Turpin) jumped up off the floor and asked if it was over," Brown said.

Michael Turpin's body had 19 stab wounds when he was pulled from the pond at Lexington's Lakeside Golf Course the day after he was killed.

Edmonds asked Brown if she was remorseful.

"Yes, ma'am," Brown said. "I think his (Michael Turpin's) family has every right to be bitter and hate me."

Carson asked Brown why she should be paroled.

"I've punished myself for 25 years," she said, adding that it took a long time for her to forgive herself. "I used to beg the victims' forgiveness."

She said she has a photograph of Turpin's headstone and has tried to live her life remembering his loss. She said if there was anything she could do to take away the Turpin family's pain, she would do it.

Brown had no criminal record before she was convicted, but she told the parole board members she has committed infractions in prison.

"I had a couple of small write-ups," she said. One was for talking after bedtime, she said.

Carson asked if she has contact with Elizabeth Turpin.

"No, I do not," Brown said.

"In 1987 I asked the (prison) captain to give her a direct order to stay away from me," she said. Elizabeth Turpin had been an inmate at the prison where Brown is housed but is now at the Western Kentucky Correctional Complex in Lyon County.

Brown, who studied at Centre College before the killing, told Edmonds and Carson she'd gotten associate degrees while in prison and had learned to transcribe Braille. She talked about living in a halfway house and possibly working at a restaurant or a horse farm or with blind people if she's released from prison.

But she said she first needed to surround herself with faith and church and "get a good foundation under me."

Elizabeth Turpin, who received the same sentence as Brown, is slated to appear before the parole board Feb.16. Bouchard, who received a life sentence, has twice appeared before the parole board but has not been released. He is scheduled to appear again in 2018. Bouchard testified against Elizabeth Turpin and Brown in a trial that lasted more than a month and drew hundreds of spectators.

Family and friends of Michael Turpin had a say before the parole board earlier this week. They urged the board to keep Brown and Elizabeth Turpin in prison. Michael Turpin's father, Don Turpin, said they had a petition signed by more than 4,000 supporters.

Reach Jennifer Hewlett at (859) 231-3308 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3308.

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