This past October 9th marks the first year anniversary of the brutal shooting death of 19-month-old Truth Rae’nell Turner in Eudora. Yet so far, no suspects have actually been charged in the death of the innocent child, murdered while asleep on a sofa at her parents’ home on Mabry street.
A celebration memory on the anniversary of death of the child was held near the lake at Amphitheatre, Lake Village, on Friday, October 13, 2017.
Candelight lit up Truth’s smiling face plastered on poster-size photos as mourners sat solemnly, speaking among themselves about the unsolved tragedy – while a family member led the crowd in a deep prayer. At the end of the anniversary, the crowd released balloons into the air that floated across the lake like a fading spirit.
“Nobody knows how horrible the feeling is when you lose a child to violence,” says Vinniki Hanney, the mother of the murdered child. Hanney and the child’s father Trent Turner also suffered gunshot wounds during the attack by unknown assailants. “And it is worse when you know the killers of your child are still walking the streets in Chicot County.”
According to court records, Tristan Taylor was charged with Terroristic Acts in connection with the baby’s death in December 2016. But on September 26, 2017, the charge against Taylor was dismissed due to lack of evidence according to Deputy Prosecuting Attorney William Bridewell.
“The charges were dismissed due to insufficient evidence,” Bridewell said in an email. Bridewell left open the possibility that charges could still be refiled against Taylor, including charges filed against other targeted suspects involved in the child’s murder.
“There’s always potential that charges will be filed in the future. … However our office would like to stress that law enforcement has not forgotten about this case.”
Arkansas State Police investigator Bo Norris affirmed Bridewell’s assertions. “We’re working this case right now,” Norris said. Taylor’s public defender Cody Martin did not return calls for comment about the case. Motive for the shooting not clear but police suspect the baby’s father was the intended target due to problems with associates who became the father’s enemy.
Meanwhile the devastating impact of Truth’s death still reverberates within the hearts of her family and concerned citizens in Eudora. “I am broke, empty and hurt,” the child’s mother Viniki Hanney lamented. Hanney tearfully recalls how her pretty little girl participated in baby pageants, winning contests. “She would pinch you,” Hanney said, “and when you looked at her, she started laughing, thinking it so funny.”
“The first time she spoke the words – I love you; as a relative left the house; was that same Sunday she was killed,” Hanney sadly remembers.
According to Ms Hanney, prior to Truth’s death, she made at least 4-5 police reports related to different shooting incidents that happened at her home. “Not much was done,” Hanney says. Hanney also said she and her child’s grandmother Tina Turner had even showed the police chief a social media video of a guy holding a weapon threatening to shoot her child’s father.
Eudora Police Chief William El-Amin disagrees with Hanney. “All evidence and complaint reports given to me by Ms Hanney and Ms Turner was thoroughly examined, discussed, and subsequently, all the evidence in the death of Truth Turner was sent to Arkansas State Police,” El-Amin said. El-Amin admits that he “understood the family’s frustration and hurt but the investigation is ongoing.”
But El-Amin also said the police can’t always do things alone. He said it takes people to get involved. “I hate it that this child lost her life to a senseless act of violence.”
“We need community participation which is the best way to solve crimes when people actually know something – yet they’ll say, ‘I don’t know anything.”
“When victims or witnesses don’t fully cooperate this can only complicate an investigation,” El-Amin explained.
Ms Hanney recalled another incident when she and her child’s father went to the police department to check on a particular incident that someone fired shots at their home on Mabry street. She says, “Officer Bonner heard the shots and practically beat us to our house. Officer Bonner chased a guy running down the alley near my house but the guy got away. Whoever it was, they shot into our house.”
Since the tragic death of Truth Turner, the Eudora Police, working in partnership with Arkansas State Police, have investigated several shootings on the north end section of Eudora on Front street. Street sources have told Chief William El-Amin the shootings were motivated by the death of little Truth. “I heard some of the shootings on the north end of town were motivated by Truth’s death or the result of someone having problems with someone on their own. One particular house on Front street has been shot into at least three times. A former resident who once lived at the address was shot last month by shotgun pellets.”
“We’re trying to get to the bottom of why so many shootings on Front street,” El-Amin stated.
What also evokes Hanney’s anger is a vicious false story that still circulate in Eudora today after the child was murdered. Hanney said people or the killers themselves said, “My child’s father, Trent Turner, held our child up as a shield to protect himself when the shooting started. That was a lie, Trent never held up our child as a shield to save himself,” Hanney said, in a tearful voice. “Truth was already shot while asleep on the sofa when Trent rushed to save her from harm.”
Hanney recalled the nightmare that she and the child’s father endured on October 9, 2016 at 240 Mabry street in Eudora. “Trent and myself were sitting outside on the porch. Trent was smoking while I was talking on my cell phone.”
“First Trent went into the house to put our child Truth and another infant relative to bed, both who were asleep on the sofa. Soon as I got up to go into the house, Hanney further recalled; all hell broke loose – bullets flying everywhere.”
“I said, Trent, they are shooting!” Trent, according to Hanney, was at the refrigerator getting something to drink.
“I could feel that I’d been hit,” she said. As Hanney hurriedly crawled into the hallway, Trent ran toward the line of fire to get the babies off the sofa. After securing the infant relative, Trent crawled back to the sofa and cradled Truth in his arms, and then crawled back into the kitchen.
“I think she’s hit,” Hanney recalled she said, as Trent cradled the child, trying to assess how bad the child was shot. Hanney said she realized her worst fear when her child’s head tilted to the side and her arms just flopped.
“She tried to open her eyes but her eyes would only blink,” Hanney said, “I started screaming. ‘I’m so sorry, daddy tried to save you,'” Hanney recalled the sorrowful words spoken by the child’s father as he held her in his arms.
Police arrived quickly. Eudora Police Officer Wayne Williams desperately tried to give the wounded child CPR. Truth Turner died later from her wounds in Little Rock Hospital.
“No parent should have to bury their own child,” Viniki Hanney said. “But we’ll keep fighting to find the killers of my baby. And only then will Truth rest.”
The child’s mother can be contacted at: 870-632-7130