Franklin County

Family fights parole in '86 slaying, among Ky.'s most infamous

Margaret Winstandley, the mother of Michael Turpin, comforted her son Tony Turpin during a parole board victim's impact hearing in Frankfort as they listened to  testimony Monday about his brother's 1986 murder.
Margaret Winstandley, the mother of Michael Turpin, comforted her son Tony Turpin during a parole board victim's impact hearing in Frankfort as they listened to testimony Monday about his brother's 1986 murder.

FRANKFORT — They came wearing buttons bearing Michael Turpin's likeness and were armed with letters and a petition signed by more than 4,500 people.

The goal of the 20 or so people — relatives and friends of Turpin, who was slain Feb. 3, 1986 — was to persuade the Kentucky parole board not to let out of prison two women convicted in his death.

Elizabeth Zehnder Turpin, who is said to have been the mastermind behind the plot to kill her husband, and Karen Brown, Elizabeth Turpin's purported lover, are to go before the parole board for the first time in February.

Michael Turpin's family and friends went before the parole board Monday in Frankfort to beg the board not to let the killers out. They brought with them Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson, who prosecuted the case, and former Fayette Circuit Judge Armand Angelucci, who presided at the trial, to bolster their case.

Don Turpin, Michael Turpin's father, said the crime was to Kentucky somewhat like the O.J. Simpson case was to the nation. He said his son's killing was the No. 1 news story in the state in 1986.

"I've spent 25 years of sleepless nights," he told the parole board. He read from a newspaper clipping titled "Parole Does Not Change Criminals" and urged the board not to be deceived by the killers.

Turpin said that if the state had had a punishment of life without the possibility of parole for murder in 1986, as it does now, then Monday's meeting wouldn't be necessary. But Elizabeth Turpin and Karen Brown got life with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

Michael Turpin's body was pulled from a pond near the entrance to Lakeside Golf Course on Feb. 4, 1986. The 22-year-old man had been stabbed 19 times with two paring knives.

In addition to Elizabeth Turpin, his wife of less than six months, and Karen Brown, Keith Bouchard was convicted in his death. A jury concluded that Elizabeth Turpin and Brown had Michael Turpin killed so Elizabeth Turpin could collect $60,000 from life insurance policies on her husband.

Bouchard admitted he stabbed Michael Turpin. He pleaded guilty and testified against the two women.

Margaret Winstandley, Michael Turpin's mother, said Elizabeth Turpin cost her son his life, and the crime cost Winstandley "at least half of myself." She said she saw a psychologist for three years after her son's murder. Elizabeth Turpin, she said, cares for no one but herself.

"Truth is not a word she recognizes or practices," Winstandley added.

Karen Brown, Winstandley said, helped kill her son by holding him down as he was being attacked.

Winstandley said her son was happy, outgoing and played baseball and the saxophone. He was in the University of Kentucky marching band and received a degree in accounting from UK.

But he became quiet after meeting Elizabeth Zehnder, she said. What Winstandley saw after meeting Zehnder, she said, "frankly had me terrified."

Tony Turpin, Michael Turpin's younger brother, shaking and crying, talked about how he and his brother had just started to become close and how those who killed Michael had destroyed Tony Turpin's chance of being his little brother. It was the first time Tony Turpin had spoken about his brother's death, a cousin told the board.

Brown, who was 22 at the time of the killing, goes before the parole board Wednesday at Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women in Pewee Valley, where she is being held.

Elizabeth Turpin, who was 20 when her husband died, goes before the board Feb. 16 at Western Kentucky Correctional Complex in Lyon County.

Bouchard appeared before the parole board in 1994 and 2006. He's scheduled to do so again in 2018. Bouchard, who was 22 when he killed Michael Turpin, was sentenced to life in prison, which meant he was first eligible for parole after serving eight years.

"I saw these two girls. They looked cold. They looked determined. They had crocodile tears," Angelucci told the parole board. He recalled details of the case, including the relationship between Elizabeth Turpin and Brown and how the fingertips of Bouchard's gloves were cut off so he could better hold the knives.

"People stood in line to get in the courthouse to hear this trash, this filth," he said.

Elizabeth Turpin "is probably the most evil, manipulative woman that I've ever prosecuted," Larson said.

Karen Brown walked through Michael Turpin's blood inside the Turpins' home, he said.

Larson said a juror in the case of Elizabeth Turpin and Karen Brown told him after their trial that 11 members of the jury had voted for the death penalty and one had abstained. Larson told the parole board that the jury gave the women a life sentence, not a 25-year sentence, and that he hoped the board would respect what the jury said.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader