AUSTIN (KXAN) — A woman was indicted on two charges, including felony murder, after her 14-year-old daughter was hit and killed by a pickup truck on MoPac Expressway in November 2021.
Court documents state Tenby Turner, 50, abandoned her daughter, Sterling Grace Turner-Williams, at Barton Creek Mall on Nov. 23, 2021.
Turner faces two charges: felony murder and abandon endanger child imminent danger bodily injury.
Retired Judge Charlie Baird said because the teen died as the original abandonment felony was committed, the charges against the mother upgraded to murder.
“The mother is accused of committing the felony offense of abandonment of a child and during the course of that offense, she committed an act clearly dangerous to human life. And that’s how you would elevate this offense… to a murder case,” he said.
Baird added typically, murder charges accompany another felony in this fashion in cases where someone is committing a felony DWI offense and crashes, killing another person. Whereas if the crash was an accident, the driver might get a manslaughter case instead.
KXAN reached out to Turner’s attorney, who released the following statement:
I can only state that this was a tragic accident, not a crime. Ms. Turner is heartbroken about the loss of her daughter. We will enter a plea of not guilty to all charges. I have no further comment.Attorney Sam Bassett
According to an arrest affidavit, Turner took the 14-year-old girl to the mall for dinner and a movie around 6 p.m.
Turner said in a 911 call she “blacked out” and woke up around 2 a.m. at a dentist’s office about 10 miles away from the mall, court records stated.
“I have not seen a case similar to this in my 40 years of practicing law,” said Baird, commenting on the rarity of these particular circumstances.
According to the affidavit, Turner told the 911 operator: “we were at the movie theater and… we separated at that point in time and to be honest with you I had too much to drink and I woke up in my car and she had called me 19 times.”
During the call, Turner said the last time she saw her daughter was “a little bit” after 6 p.m., the affidavit stated.
Turner said Sterling had Asperger syndrome, the affidavit stated.
At 8:49 p.m., 911 got a report of a female, later identified as Sterling, who was walking northbound on MoPac, according to court records. Then, at 8:52 p.m., another 911 caller reported a female was hit by a vehicle while crossing the southbound lanes of MoPac.
Austin Police arrived on the scene at 8:55 p.m. in the 2700 block of MoPac and found Sterling with traumatic injuries. She was initially identified as “Jane Doe,” the arrest warrant said. However, medical records were able to identify Sterling.
According to court records, Sterling suffered multiple traumatic injuries.
Sterling was pronounced dead at about 12:40 a.m., and court records said Turner called 911 around 4 a.m. to report her daughter missing.
There was a hearing in the case on Monday, and the next hearing is scheduled for mid-February.