TEXARKANA, Texas–A Texas appellate court has ruled against Travis Alston Turner – a Texarkana man who strangled his on-again, off-again girlfriend to death in her townhouse in the summer of 2021 – by rejecting his bid for a new trial and upholding the life sentence he received this year at the end of a jury trial.
Jennifer Rose Garrett, 29, was a hometown girl who was loved by her friends and family until her untimely death Aug. 12, 2021, at the hands of Turner. Turner, 30, was given a maximum life sentence and assessed a maximum $10,000 fine in early February after a Bowie County jury found him guilty of murder.
First Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp told TXK Today on Wednesday that “at trial, the evidence was that Travis Turner remorselessly and brutally murdered Jennifer Rose Garrett, a young lady who was universally adored by everyone who knew her.”
“The jury quickly found Turner guilty and assessed him a life sentence, the maximum punishment allowed by law,” Crisp said. “As always, the Bowie County District Attorney’s Office appreciates the work of the Texarkana Texas Police Department in investigating and assisting with his prosecution. Everyone in law enforcement who was involved in this case will forever be proud of the outcome and for the opportunity to deliver some measure of justice to the friends and family for the loss of their beloved Jennifer. Our office believes the result of this trial was just and right and we are pleased with the Court of Appeals’ decision to affirm Turner’s conviction and punishment.”
Turner argued on appeal that his right to have the lawyer of his choice was violated, that evidence collected from the crime scene was illegally obtained and that the jury should have received an instruction that evidence had been improperly collected. The Sixth District Court of Appeals headquartered in Texarkana didn’t buy any of Turner’s arguments and issued an opinion last week affirming his conviction and life sentence.
Turner was arrested at the scene on the day of Jennifer’s murder. Usually punctual and never absent without notice, she had failed to show up to work that morning, alarming coworkers who were also her close friends.
Two of her coworkers called another close friend of Jennifer’s when they went to her home on Summerhill Place late on the morning of Aug. 12, 2021, and Turner answered their knock at the door. Standing with the door cracked, Turner told Jennifer’s friends that she hadn’t come home the night before and he had no idea where she was.
Noting that Jennifer’s car was parked nearby, one of the friends, who shared her location with Jennifer via cell phone, determined that her phone was inside of the home and doubted that she would have left without it. When Turner left a short time later to grab some lunch, the two friends from work used a credit card – as Jennifer had shown them how to do – to get inside.
The friends had good reason to worry about Jennifer when Turner was around.
He had recently been arrested for assaulting his own mother and had been charged with a felony in Texarkana, Ark., for shooting a man. Friends also knew Turner could be demeaning and controlling when it came to Jennifer, whom he had dated sporadically since high school.
When the friends opened the door, they found Jennifer’s lifeless body on the living room couch, not five feet from where Turner had stood when he claimed she wasn’t there. A medical examiner would testify more than a year later that she had been violently strangled, the life choked out of her, in her own home.
Witnesses testified that Turner’s mental state had been growing more and more hostile since the death of his father and that he was angry with his mother because he didn’t get title to his father’s real estate holdings, including the home where his mother lived. His rage included assaulting his mother and other aggressive, menacing behavior.
But Jennifer, known for her kindness, was a loyal friend to Turner who bought him food when he was hungry and gave him a place to sleep when his own family no longer wanted him around.
After his arrest, Turner’s mother hired a defense attorney to represent him, but Turner complained that he wanted to choose his own counsel. Months went by and Turner, who was jailed and unemployed, did not have the means to hire a lawyer. Texas District Judge John Tidwell, who presided over the case and the trial, ruled that while defendants have the right to a lawyer of their choosing, Turner failed to exercise that right for well over a year.
The appellate court noted that while defendants have the right to a lawyer, the court can appoint a lawyer if they can’t afford one and the defendant cannot dictate the appointment. The appellate justices also said that Judge Tidwell has a duty to keep his docket moving and get cases to trial in a timely fashion.
The appellate court also pointed out that Judge Tidwell had a responsibility to Jennifer’s grieving family and to ensure her loved ones were “not forced to endure the emotional upheaval of waiting for Turner’s trial to begin or for the trial to conclude,” in the opinion.
The appellate court gave no weight to Turner’s argument that evidence was illegally obtained because Jennifer’s friends had entered her home without permission. The justices referred to testimony from Jennifer’s friends who said she welcomed them into her residence, even if she was not there, and had taught them how to get in the front door using a credit card.
Because the evidence was legally obtained, the appellate court, like Judge Tidwell, ruled that Turner wasn’t entitled to a jury instruction about potentially illegally obtained evidence.
Turner’s repeated verbal outbursts caused delays during his trial and in the months before jury selection, he assaulted staff in the Bowie County jail. Security concerns were so high during the trial that Turner was shackled and his chains were bolted to the floor out of the sight of the jury.
Crisp, who prosecuted the case, said she was also appreciative of the Bowie County Sheriff’s Office, whose staff had to deal with Turner’s volatile behavior in the jail and during transports to court, and provided enhanced security during the trial.
Turner is currently being held in the Bill Clements Unit of the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice in Amarillo and is “temporarily ineligible” for visitors. Visitation privileges may be suspended under a variety of circumstances, including security concerns or for disciplinary reasons.
TDCJ records show Turner will be eligible for parole Aug. 12, 2051. However, eligibility for parole is not a guarantee that parole will be granted.