NEW BOSTON, Texas–Co-workers of a murdered Texarkana woman testified Wednesday that they were shocked to find her lifeless body on a couch five feet from the front door where accused murderer Travis Turner had turned them away less than an hour before.
“I just heard like a blood curdling scream,” LaDarius Reid told the jury. “It was like one of those screams you’ll never forget and she said, ‘She’s dead, she’s dead.’”
Reid and another employee of Total Medical Supply in Texarkana, where Jennifer Garrett, 29, worked as compliance officer, went to her bottom-floor apartment in a fourplex in the 6200 block of Summerhill Place to check on her at around 11:30 a.m. Aug. 12, 2021, when she uncharacteristically failed to show for work that day and calls to her phone went unanswered.
Brooke Kern and Reid, who said they were friends of Garrett’s both on the job and outside work, had contacted another friend of Garrett’s who was able to determine that her cell phone was inside the apartment. Both testified that they noticed Garrett’s car parked in the area, though not in its usual spot, and were puzzled when Turner, 29, told them that she hadn’t come home the night before and that he had no idea where she was.
“I just had a weird feeling,” Reid said under questioning by Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richards.. “Something didn’t feel right.”
Kern testified that she was walking around outside Garrett’s residence when Turner walked out of the apartment some time after he’d told them Garrett wasn’t there. Kern said Turner told her he was on his way to pick up something to eat when she asked where he was going.
Kern said Garrett had an “open door” policy at her home, which was only a short distance from her office, and that she knew entrance could be easily made using a credit card to jimmy the lock.
First Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp asked Kern about statements made by Assistant Public Defender Bart Craytor in opening statements on Tuesday afternoon in which he put forward the possibility that someone had placed Garrett’s body on her couch after Turner left the apartment.
Kern said, “I don’t even know how that would be possible,” when asked if she had anything to do with the murder and confirmed that she and Reid had been sent to Garrett’s home by their supervisor.
The friends had already made one 911 call asking police to conduct a welfare check. After finding her dead, they made a second call. Before police arrived, an upstairs neighbor of Garrett’s with medical training offered assistance.
Lindsey Strother testified that she could tell immediately that Garrett was “gone” and that she’d been dead for some time.
“When I touched her she was rock solid, like ice,” Strother said, adding that she checked for a pulse as Garrett’s friends had requested. “You could tell just by looking at her skin.”
Turner returned and parked his dark gray BMW at the end of Summerhill Place after a large group of police and Garrett’s friends had gathered on the scene. Texarkana Texas Police Department Officer Austin Butts said Turner didn’t ask any questions about the law enforcement presence at the home or about Garrett’s well-being.
“Someone shouted, ‘There he is. He killed her,’” Butts testified. “He didn’t say anything.”
Butts said he was familiar with Turner because he was among officers who had responded to some of the calls received by police after Donal Turner Sr., Travis Turner’s father, passed away in January 2021.
“It had to do with dividing up property,” Butts said. “His dad passed away and he felt he was entitled to it. It was constantly about, this is all mine, he left it to me, this is not a police matter,” Butts said.
The jury also heard testimony Tuesday from Travis Turner’s mother, Travistene Turner, who was clearly reluctant to testify for the state. Crisp repeatedly reminded Travistene Turner of responses she had given before a grand jury in the fall of 2021.
Travis Turner was arrested for assaulting his mother by hitting her in the face and physically removing her from her home on Lakeview in the Dogwood area of Texarkana on July 25, 2021. Travis Turner allegedly believed his father had left him the home where his parents lived and that he was supposed to receive a larger share of the estate, including rental properties, than his siblings and half siblings.
During her questioning of Travistene Turner, Crisp noted that police had been called about the conflict between Travis Turner and his mother four times in June 2021 and twice in July with the final call resulting in Travis Turner’s arrest for assault. Travistene Turner said she obtained a restraining order after the arrest to keep her son from her home.
It was then that Travis Turner began living at Garrett’s apartment. Witnesses testified that the two had dated off-and-on since high school and that Garrett was private about her romantic involvement.
When asked about her son’s arrest for a shooting in Texarkana, Arkansas, in February 2021 that sent one man to the hospital with a bullet wound, Travistene Turner testified, “That was one month after his daddy died.”
Crisp asked Travistene Turner about her son’s alleged unwillingness to sign a “family agreement” which she initiated at a local title company to give a rental property to each of the children she and Donal Turner had before and during their marriage.
The day before Garrett’s death, Travis Turner paid a visit to Capital Title in Texarkana where paperwork finalizing the family agreement was awaiting his signature. Escrow officer Samantha Mitchell testified Wednesday that Travis Turner was the only family member who had not signed the document and that she was excited to finish the work.
Mitchell said Travis Turner made “rude comments” that should have been “red flags” and testified that his demeanor made her and the office receptionist uncomfortable. While reviewing the papers he needed to sign, Travis Turner allegedly asked to see the entire file, which she provided.
“He closed it up and grabbed it and took it from our office,” Mitchell said.
A number of text messages between Garrett and Travis Turner were shown to the jury Tuesday morning as licensed professional counselor Makesha Parrish testified as an expert on domestic violence. Parrish pointed out language, some of it profane and demeaning, that Travis Turner used in his communications with Garrett.
“She is so in love with this individual [and] she is going to sacrifice everything to maintain this relationship,” Parrish said. “He has really done a number on her self-esteem and self-worth.”
Testimony in the case is expected to continue Thursday at the Bowie County courthouse in New Boston before 202nd District Judge John Tidwell. The judge has ordered extra security for the trial and for Travis Turner, who has been “combative” and assaultive toward jail staff and transport officers, according to a motion filed by the state.
Because Turner is shackled and chained to a bolt on the floor beneath the defense table, observers are not hearing the phrase “all rise” as Judge Tidwell or the jury enters, as in a typical jury trial. The pause in court formalities reduces the possibility that jurors might realize that Turner is being restrained in court and prejudice their opinion of him.
If convicted of murder in Garrett’s death, Travis Turner faces five to 99 years or life in a Texas prison.