A cosplay model charged with murdering her fiancé took the stand in her defense to detail the events that she claims left her fearing for her life.
Melissa Turner, 29, told jurors Thursday and Friday that she acted in self-defense when she stabbed her 25-year-old boyfriend, Matthew Trussler. She tearfully recalled how she had been asleep when Trussler suddenly woke her after a day and night of drinking. A fight ensued, with Turner claiming Trussler choked her, threw her across a counter, and grabbed a knife. Turner told jurors that when Trussler put down the blade to start strangling her again, she grabbed it off the counter and stabbed him in the back.
“I thought he was going to kill me,” said Turner.
The State Attorney’s Office for the 13th Judicial District charged Turner with a single count of second-degree murder just days after the stabbing in October 2018. If convicted, she could be facing life in prison because it is a Class A felony in Florida.
Earlier this week, jurors heard from witnesses for the prosecution, including Detective Ryan Lagasse. He was among the first members of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office to arrive at the crime scene on the morning of the murder. He then began canvassing the neighborhood and detailed his findings in the initial report filed in the case and then again on the stand this week. The report and his testimony centered on footage he discovered from a neighbor’s Nest camera.
Specifically, at approximately 0431 hours on October 18th, 2019 an argument is captured (audio/video) by a Nest home surveillance camera, which points in the direction (southwest), of the screened patio of the incident scene. At approximately 0432 hours, a suspected female voice appears to say “you stay down.” At approximately 0433 hours a noise is captured, which is consistent with glass breaking. Approximately 45 seconds later, a suspected female voice appears to say, “so fucking die.” At approximately 0435 hours, a suspected female voice appears to say, “l hate you.” Approximately 32 seconds later the suspected female voice then states, “get up” multiple times. At approximately 0437 hours a noise is heard which sounds like smacking, followed by yelling and a female voice is again heard to say, “get up.” At approximately 0437 hours, a female voice is heard to say, “so fucking arrogant, I hate you.” At approximately 0439 hours, a female voice is heard to say several times, “go fuck yourself.” At approximately 0440 hours, a female voice is heard saying, “let’s go.” At approximately 0442 hours, a female voice is again heard saying “fuck you.” At approximately 0443 hours, additional “smacking” noises are heard and a possible male’s voice is heard, but it is unclear what is said. At approximately 0444 hours additional arguing is heard, including a suspected female voice yelling, “No!” At approximately 0445 hours, a female voice is heard possibly saying “What did I do?” At approximately 0511 hours, it appears the screen comes off the window which is the window where the victim is located by responding patrol deputies.
Law&Crime spoke with Turner’s attorney John Trevena about this audio, and he admitted that it is his client that is heard saying those things.
“We have several issues supporting why we believe that the jury should find Ms. Turner not guilty,” explained Trevena. “These issues include expert testimony from our audio/video expert Bruce Koenig that the Nest video/audio recording from a neighbor across the street was manipulated in select areas to amplify the volume to make it sound like Ms. Turner was screaming much louder and the portions wherein the alleged victim is speaking are completely inaudible. Further, there are the issues of self-defense and heat of passion.”
However, the police report does not answer why Turner waited hours to notify authorities and allegedly changed her story just hours after deputies arrived on the scene to find her covered in dried blood.
At approximately 0957 hours your affiant arrived at the incident scene and made contact with the defendant. Upon contact, the defendant stated she initially located the victim on the back patio and does ‘not know what happened to him.
Turner agreed to go to the station for more questioning, and that is when her story allegedly started to shift, saying the incident all started when Trussler woke her up at 4 a.m. from a “dead sleep” and ended with him dead.
The defendant then became angry with the victim because he woke her up and the two of them began to argue. The defendant stated during the argument the victim was holding a knife in his hand when she attempted to grab the knife by the blade. The defendant stated she grabbed the *khifé to take it away from him at which time he cut her hand (the victim had a large laceration on the palm of her right hand). The defendant stated at that time, “things escalated.” The defendant scratched her on the left side of her neck and then threw her across the kitchen counter. The defendant stated that she and the victim were the only people in the residence at the time the argument occurred and they are currently engaged to be married. Furthermore, the defendant stated during her post-Miranda interview, “if it was an accident, then I would have called 911, and not just let him die.”
Detectives on the scene were also able to determine that Turner did not call for police or rescue until almost four hours after Trussler’s death, thanks to the watch the victim wore, which measured his heart rate in real-time.
Hillsborough County Fire pronounced Trussler dead on the scene, and Dr. Mary Mainland with the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office later determined that there were numerous wounds on the victim’s body, including a defensive wound on his right forearm, a large laceration to the upper right bicep, a minor laceration to the middle of his chest, a small cut to the top of his right shoulder, and a large wound in the middle of his back that is consistent with a stab wound.
A court filing submitted last week reveals that Turner turned down a plea deal that would see her serve 25 years in prison and unsuccessfully countered by seeking a five-year sentence. She is also in foreclosure on the home she and Trussler purchased just months before his death. Citizens Bank sent a Civil Actions Summons in August and just this week filed after Turner failed to meet a deadline in the case.
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