Bridger enters not-guilty plea in shooting death of Aletha Turner

Tuesday, December 28, 2010 | 3:55 p.m. CST; updated 8:26 p.m. CST, Tuesday, December 28, 2010

COLUMBIA — The Columbia man charged in the recent shooting death of Aletha M. Turner pleaded not guilty at an arraignment Tuesday afternoon in Boone County Circuit Court.

Ryan C. Bridger, 22, of Columbia entered his plea via video from the Boone County Jail, where he has been held since Dec. 21, first on a burglary charge and later on charges of second-degree murder and armed criminal action. A $1 million cash bond has been set.

Family members found Turner, 67, unconscious Dec. 20 in her Dewey Lane home in northeast Columbia. She died Dec. 22 at University Hospital. According to a probable-cause statement, Turner appears to have been shot on or about Dec. 17, three days before she was found.

A Dec. 23 autopsy found that Turner was shot in the head once. A piece of a small-caliber bullet was recovered.

According to two probable cause statements filed separately by the prosecutor's office, Bridger admitted stealing a small-caliber handgun and keys to Turner's home from the home of her brother, Spencer Turner, and his wife, Joan. Bridger also said he stole several items, including jewelry and a Wii game system from the couple while they were on vacation and pawned several of the items.

One of the statements says Bridger stole items from the Turners' home on Mexico Gravel Road "on numerous occasions" while they were away. On Dec. 19, the Turners' daughter noticed a suspicious car in the driveway and Bridger was found in the Turners' home hiding in a closet, the statement said. He was detained for questioning and released.

Bridger also admitted stealing Aletha Turner’s checkbook and some jewelry from her home, according to one of the statements. It also states that there was no sign of forced entry into Turner’s home and that all the doors were locked.

Last week, Boone County Sheriff's Detective Tom O'Sullivan said Bridger knew Turner because he was in a relationship with another niece.

Bridger’s preliminary hearing has been set for 2 p.m. Jan. 24 before Associate Circuit Judge Deborah Daniels.

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Melissa Tiffany December 29, 2010 | 8:41 a.m.

This is such a sad case. Obviously this young man has some serious issues. I cannot fathom her laying there bleeding to death for 3 days, before being discovered. My heart and prayers go out to her family!

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