Roof repairman charged in 77-year-old woman’s strangling

Sunday, May 15, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:12 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

The man Zelpha Turner hired to fix the roof of her garage is charged with strangling her in her rural Boone County home last week.

According to court documents, Turner met Dearl W. Jackson on April 20 – 13 days after he was released from Boone County Jail, having served a six-month sentence for misdemeanor stealing. Jackson lived across the street from Turner with his girlfriend.

Turner’s granddaughter found the 77-year-old woman lying on her living room floor at 6060 N. Highway VV near Prathersville shortly before noon on May 2. An autopsy later determined that she was strangled.

Jackson, 47, was charged Friday with first-degree murder after investigators traced a bloody footprint found next to Turner’s body to Jackson’s only pair of shoes. He remained in Boone County Jail on Saturday afternoon in lieu of $500,000 bond.

Investigators had arrested Jackson May 4 on an unrelated felony stealing warrant. Until Friday, authorities had declined to label Jackson as a suspect in the murder.

Boone County Sheriff Dwayne Carey said Turner voluntarily gave detectives his only pair of shoes during the investigation. A lab expert with the Kansas City Police Department crime lab determined that the sole of the right shoe matched the print that was found at the crime scene.

Carey said detectives also found items that were missing from Turner’s house close to Jackson’s residence.

He declined to elaborate further, saying some of those items were still being tested by the crime lab.

About 10 days before her murder, Turner hired Jackson to repair the roof of the garage, sheriff’s Sgt. Michael Stubbs reported in a probable cause statement.

Three days before her body was found, Turner told her sister over the phone that she was scared of Jackson and was thinking about investing in a home security system after he had asked her for money.

Margery Wade, of Centerville, Iowa, said Saturday that she did not think the repairman would hurt her sister.

“I guess I should have questioned her more,” she said. “I didn’t realize it was this bad.”

According to court documents, Jackson has been charged with several crimes dating back to 1991, including charges of assault, burglary, trespassing and unlawful use of a weapon.

He was last released from the Boone County Jail on April 7 after serving time for the stealing conviction.

He is set to be arraigned on the murder charge at 1:30 p.m. Monday in the 13th Circuit Court.

Carey said no motive has been determined in the case.

The last person to have contact with Turner was her son, Stan Turner, who talked with her on the phone between 8 and 9:30 p.m. on May 1.

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