NEW BOSTON, Texas–Travis Turner was found guilty Friday afternoon by a jury in the August 2021 murder of Jennifer Garrett in Texarkana, Texas.
The jury deliberated about 20 minutes before returning a guilty verdict for murder.
“She didn’t hold value to him,” First Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp told the jury in closing remarks. “But she holds value today.”
In the hours before Garrett was found lifeless on her living room couch by coworkers who went to check on her late on the morning of Aug. 12, Turner used her cell phone and slept alone in her bed as she lay dead nearby. Before Garrett’s friends stopped by, Turner went to get a haircut, made a stop at Walmart and then came back to her apartment, evidence at trial showed.
After the friends were turned away by Turner, who told them Garrett hadn’t come home the night before, they called police for a welfare check, noting that her phone was showing to be inside her apartment and her car was parked outside, although not in its usual spot.
When Turner left to get lunch at a local deli, Garrett’s friends made entry into the bottom-floor unit she rented in a fourplex on Summerhill Place in Texarkana and found her dead, not five feet from the door where Turner had stood 15 minutes earlier.
By the time Turner returned with his lunch, a cadre of police cruisers, unmarked units and Garrett’s friends had gathered along the street. He was taken to the Bi-State Justice Building in downtown Texarkana where he struggled with officers who attempted to collect his DNA and photograph fingernail scratches on his chest as ordered by a search warrant.
Evidence that Garrett had been brutally strangled and struggled against her attacker was apparent on her face and in her eyes. Pinpoint-sized petechiae, red dots caused when capillaries burst while blood flow is being restricted, covered Garrett’s entire head, her face, her neck and the inside of her nose, Dallas County medical examiner Dr. Elizabeth Ventura testified Friday morning under questioning by Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richards.
Dr. Ventura told the jury that a tremendous amount of force was used in the attack as she pointed to a broken bone and broken cartilage in Garrett’s neck.
“The petechiae and fractures are rarely seen together,” Ventura said, noting that Garrett was a healthy 29-year-old woman whose broken neck was particularly notable given her age.
Ventura said Garrett also had a large bruise on the side of her face and other bruises on her body which were consistent with a struggle during a strangulation, including small scratches near the base of her neck.
“It’s not unusual to see scratch marks in that region [of the neck],” Dr. Ventura said. “Many times the victim, trying to relieve the compression on their neck, can cause injuries to their own bodies while struggling.”
Analysts with the Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Lab testified that Turner’s DNA was found beneath Garrett’s fingernails.
Witnesses testified that the couple had dated off and on since high school. Text messages showed that Turner was often degrading, demeaning and belittling to Garrett but was quite willing to have her bring him meals and give him a place to live after his mother was granted a restraining order against him following a July 25, 2021, confrontation where he hit his mother in the face and threw her out of her own home.
Witnesses said Turner was convinced that he should have inherited his parents’ home on Lakeview in Texarkana after his father died in January 2021, even though his mother lived there and shared ownership in the property. Turner was apparently of the mind that he was entitled to a bigger portion of his father’s estate than his siblings and half siblings, according to testimony. Conflict over his beliefs about his inheritance had led to multiple calls to police in June and July of 2021 by Turner’s mother.
Turner was the last witness the jury of six men and six women heard from on Friday. He denied ever harming Garrett, under questioning by Assistant Public Defender Bart Craytor. Turner claimed Garrett had been gone all night and that her body was not in the apartment when he came back from his barber visit, showered and answered a knock at the door from Garrett’s worried colleagues.
Turner spoke calmly as he put forth the theory that Garrett’s body must somehow have been moved into the residence during an approximately 10-minute period between the time he left and her friends found her deceased.
Under cross-examination by First Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp, Turner answered most questions with a question, deflecting the subject away from what happened to Garrett to criticism of others and personal grievances.
Crisp also asked Turner about pending terroristic threat and assault charges pending against him in Miller County, Arkansas, in connection with a shooting that sent a Texarkana man to the hospital in February 2021.
Turner argued with Crisp about the facts of the case, commented about his gun not being of the caliber as shell casings recovered and chided her.
“You’re smart enough to know that…,” Turner shot at Crisp during his testimony.
Early in the exchange, Crisp asked Turner about his smiling as witnesses testified and graphic crime scene photos were shown.
“I’ve seen you smile in here this week too,” Turner said, leading Crisp to fire back, “You’re right, I have smiled. But I’m not on trial for murder. Do you understand that you’re on trial for murder?”
Crisp pointed out that Turner was able to provide ample detail of his interactions at Capital Title in Texarkana the day before Garrett’s body was found but was completely vague and said he couldn’t remember when asked what time she left the apartment and with whom that night.
“He thinks by speaking it into existence, if he says it enough you’ll believe it,” Richards said in her closing argument. “What he’s been doing here today is gaslighting.”
Blood had settled and fixed in the body and Garrett was stiff and cold upon discovery by her friends, which indicates her body had remained stationary after death for 10 to 12 hours, Dr. Ventura said.
The jury was instructed by 202nd District Judge John Tidwell to return Monday to begin hearing testimony and arguments regarding the punishment Turner should receive in the range of five to 99 years or life in the Institutional Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.