FRANKFORT — In a repeat of what happened earlier this month with one of Elizabeth Zehnder Turpin's accomplices, two members of the Kentucky Parole Board did not come to a decision Wednesday about parole for Turpin, incarcerated for nearly 25 years for her role in the murder of Michael Turpin of Lexington.
Parole board members Monica Edmonds and George Carson told Elizabeth Turpin the full nine-member parole board would meet Monday in Frankfort to decide. Turpin, 44, appeared via video before the two board members Wednesday morning. Turpin was at the Western Kentucky Correctional Complex in Fredonia, where she is housed; Edmonds and Carson were at parole board offices in Frankfort. Several other parole board members were at the Frankfort offices for the hearing, but they did not participate in the interview.
Turpin is considered the mastermind behind the slaying of Michael Turpin, to whom she had been married for less than six months when he was killed Feb. 3, 1986. The motive for the slaying, according to authorities, was $60,000 in life insurance on Michael Turpin that Elizabeth Turpin wanted to collect. Keith Bouchard fatally stabbed Michael Turpin, with assistance from Karen Brown. Michael Turpin's body, with 19 stab wounds, was recovered from a pond at Lexington's Lakeside Golf Course. He was 22. The slaying is considered among the most sensational murders in state history.
Elizabeth Turpin was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility for parole after 25 years. Wednesday's hearing was her first parole hearing.
Turpin shed a few tears as she addressed the board members, but she was composed throughout most of the interview. She said she felt unworthy to sit in front of the parole board and it was a "huge thing" to ask the board to give her a chance.
Turpin said her lawyer and her husband, RobertReichel, were at the prison for the hearing. Turpin married Reichel, a Microsoft programmer from Redmond, Wash., in 1998. The state Department of Corrections continues to list her as "Turpin" in its records.
Turpin described to the board her relationship with Brown and Bouchard and provided details about what happened the night of the killing.
Turpin said she had met Brown and Bouchard at Superior Nissan on Nicholasville Road, where they worked. Turpin said she and Brown became friends because Brown sold cocaine to her. Turpin said that, at one point, Brown indicated to her she wanted to get to know her on a more personal level. Turpin did not discourage Brown, she said, but the relationship did not become physical. Turpin said she did not know Bouchard well.
In a steady, collected voice, Elizabeth Turpin told Edmonds and Carson she did not realize the effect her words would have on Brown and Bouchard on the night of the killing.
On the night of her husband's slaying, she went to a Lexington club with Brown and Bouchard, Turpin told the two board members. She and Brown were leaving the club to get cocaine for Bouchard when they discovered the car was not where it should have been, she said. That made her upset and scared, and Turpin apparently had thought her husband moved the car.
"I had been doing drugs. I'd been drinking," she said. She said she told Brown "If I had a gun I'd kill (Michael Turpin) myself."
Elizabeth Turpin said her relationship with her husband "wasn't coming together" and the two had been having trouble communicating.
Elizabeth Turpin, Brown and Bouchard went to Brown's apartment after leaving the club. Turpin said she understood that Bouchard and Brown were going from there to the Turpins' apartment to scare Michael Turpin.
"I didn't really give any specific instructions. I just said I didn't care what they did," said Elizabeth Turpin, who stayed at Brown's apartment. She said Brown and Bouchard "had no gun or knife or anything like that" when they left Brown's apartment.
Turpin told the parole board members she thought the words she said to Brown and Bouchard that night set everything in motion.
Turpin said she was 19 at the time, and "when you're young like that," you don't think that's going to result in grievous harm or someone dying.
"You just don't expect people to die when you make statements like that," she said. Turpin said there "was no motive; it was impulse."
She said her immaturity and poor coping skills played a role in what happened.
"I am extremely remorseful for this act," Turpin told Edmonds and Carson. But, she said, "I cannot take it back. I cannot do anything to change what happened."
Turpin told Edmonds and Carson she started undergoing therapy and doing rehabilitative work not long after she was incarcerated. She said she knew it was important for her to change.
While in prison, Turpin has started a service dog program in which dogs are trained to assist people with special needs, she said.
"The dog program is huge to me," she said. It's a way to make amends for what happened, one small way of saying how sorry you are, she said. The first dog she trained, Faith, went to an autistic boy. Turpin showed the board members a photograph of the boy with the dog.
Turpin also said she has earned two associate degrees — in the arts and in science — maintaining a 4.0 grade point average. She said she is taking courses from Indiana University and plans to get a bachelor's degree. She said her grade point average at IU is 3.75.
Turpin has had "three major write-ups" since she's been incarcerated she said. The last one was last fall. She got into trouble for inappropriate sexual behavior, she said. A fellow inmate leaned over her while she was at a work station and kissed her, she said.
"Obviously, it was more on her part than it was on my part," she said.
The write-up was Turpin's first in 14 years, she said.
If she is released, Turpin said, she would like to work for Catholic Charities in Louisville. Her family lives in Louisville, she said.
That decision probably will come Monday.
Earlier this month, Edmonds and Carson wrestled with a similar decision at a parole hearing for Brown, who received the same sentence as Turpin. The full parole board eventually decided to keep Brown, 46, in prison for at least five more years. Bouchard, who was sentenced to life in prison, has been before the parole board twice and denied parole. He is scheduled to go before the board again in 2018.