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How a Phoenix Podcast Host Used TikTok to Advocate for Her Lacking Sister

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It was Could 17, 2001, and Alissa Turney was lacking.

It was the 17-year-old’s final day of faculty at Paradise Valley Excessive College in north Phoenix, however she by no means got here residence. There was solely a be aware, and unanswered questions.

For almost 20 years, Alissa’s youthful sister, Sarah Turney, looked for solutions. And final week, she obtained them.

On August 20, Alissa’s stepfather and Sarah’s father, Michael Turney, was arrested on a second-degree homicide cost associated to Alissa’s disappearance.

“I’m shaking and I’m crying. We did it you guys. He’s been arrested,” Sarah tweeted final week. “By no means surrender hope you could get justice. It took nearly 20 years however we did it.”

Sarah, who was 12 in 2001, was with Michael the day they discovered Alissa’s usually organized room in disarray, together with a be aware that learn, “Dad and Sarah, Once you dropped me off in school at the moment, I made a decision I actually am going to California. Sarah, you stated you actually wished me gone – now you’ve got it. Dad, I took $300 from you. That’s why I saved my cash.”

This wasn’t instantly suspicious; Alissa had an aunt in California and had talked about eager to go dwell together with her as a result of she didn’t get together with Michael, who legally adopted Alissa after the women’ mom, Barbara Strahm, died of most cancers 9 years prior. Michael, who labored as a deputy sheriff for the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Workplace within the ’70s, known as police that evening anyway and reported Alissa as a runaway.

Instantly, Sarah started in search of her sister.

“I began an internet site for Alissa like every week or so after she was gone,” Sarah stated in an interview that occurred earlier than Michael Turney’s arrest, “so it’s been up for a super-long time.” The web site requested for leads and suggestions that might assist discover Alissa.

Within the subsequent years, because the police investigation began to show chilly, legislation enforcement instructed Sarah to create a media presence to assist preserve the case alive. She made Fb, Instagram, and Twitter accounts with the username “Justice for Alissa.” She reached out to the media and true crime fans to unfold the phrase, and was in a position to get quantity of consideration on the case. She even spent a 12 months to lift cash and put up a billboard alongside Interstate 17 close to 19th Avenue.

Sarah began a podcast in September 2019 known as Voices for Justice, wherein she offered data not generally recognized by the general public or the true crime group, and instructed the complete story surrounding her sister’s disappearance based mostly on the knowledge she had.

“I used to be actually inspired by the true crime group to [start the podcast],” she stated. “It [was] form of like my last-ditch effort to get this case to maneuver ahead.”

To arrange, Sarah wished to collect all the knowledge the police had on her sister’s disappearance. She went to the Phoenix Police Division together with her request for the information and obtained in return almost 3,000 pages of publicly launched notes and case paperwork.

“As soon as I obtained all of the case information, I spotted that this story has by no means been instructed in full. There’s a lot that no person ever knew,” Sarah stated. “I believe I went by way of all 3,000 pages in six weeks. I discovered a lot within the information that I by no means knew, and I discovered a lot that I might’ve by no means anticipated to seek out in there.”

Then got here TikTok.

Sarah joined the app to assist go the time throughout quarantine, but it surely shortly grew to become far more than that.

“I used to be sitting up late at evening apprehensive concerning the world and wanted some sort of distraction, so I downloaded the app,” she stated. “I began pondering, ‘Possibly that is Alissa’s alternative.’” She started to advocate for her sister’s case on the app.

Within the quick time Sarah has been on TikTok – the tip of April, to be precise – she has gained over 10 million likes on her movies.

“TikTok blew up like loopy,” she stated. “I’ve, like, 10,000 to 20,000 followers on my different platforms however on TikTok, I simply hit 800,000 followers.”

Her posts embody movies Michael Turney took of Alissa earlier than she went lacking, clips of interviews with family and friends about Alissa’s disappearance, and data individuals might not have recognized earlier than.

In her first submit to the platform, Sarah sits in her workplace and says, “It’s not straightforward being the frustration of the household however anyone needed to do it. So right here the fuck I’m.” The textual content on her video reads, “When your Dad killed your sister and your loved ones hates you for preventing for his prosecution.”

In one other video, her again is turned to the digital camera as she bops to “The Signal” by Ace of Base, then twirls round in her chair on the verse “I obtained a brand new life, you’d hardly acknowledge me,” with the on-screen textual content: “When police say your solely hope of getting your pedophile/home terrorist father tried on your sister’s homicide is media publicity … however you’ve got crippling social anxiousness.”

“It’s so extremely embarrassing however so extremely efficient,” Sarah stated. “I’m simply making an attempt to make use of these TikTok algorithms to unfold the phrase. I take a preferred idea or sound and attempt to apply it to Alissa’s case.”

Alissa’s disappearance was thrust again into the highlight in 2006 when a person named Thomas Hymer, serving time in jail in Florida for homicide, wrote a letter to police confessing to Alissa’s homicide. Although the police investigation decided the confession to be a hoax, there have been items of data and particulars that made police notice this wasn’t a runaway case.

Police then started to take a look at Michael Turney in 2008, who had stated he picked Alissa up from faculty the day she disappeared.

Michael was arrested in 2008 after police searched his home and located 26 pipe bombs, a manifesto, and hours upon hours of audio recordings and residential movies of him stalking Alissa proper up till she disappeared. In a single video, a youthful Sarah is holding a video tape recording Alissa and Michael, and within the background, Alissa could be heard saying “Dad’s a pervert.” Police additionally discovered contracts Michael allegedly made Alissa signal that acknowledged she had by no means been sexually assaulted or molested by Michael.

Michael went to jail in 2010 for 10 years for the pipe bombs, however not Alissa’s disappearance. Although police had reached out to interview Michael on a number of events about Alissa’s disappearance, he declined.

Phoenix police submitted Alissa’s case to the prosecutor’s workplace for costs towards Michael Turney again in June. On August 19, a grand jury indicted him on one depend of second-degree homicide, a Class 1 felony, for the dying of Alissa. Turney was arrested the following day. (The division has declined to say what proof prompted the arrest.)

“As county lawyer, that is the work that issues. It’s why I grew to become a prosecutor,” Maricopa County Lawyer Allister Adel stated in a press launch. “In search of justice for victims of crime and their households will at all times be job one for this workplace. Being a voice for individuals who can now not converse for themselves guides this workplace, each single day, as we search to do the correct factor for the correct causes.”

Adel later stated in a press convention that the arrest is “overwhelming, however in a great way. This household has longed for her and to have solutions for therefore lengthy and the Phoenix Police Division labored tirelessly.”

Sarah responded shortly afterward on Twitter with an replace episode of the Voices for Justice podcast. In a two-minute message, she tearfully thanked her podcast followers and listeners.

“With out you guys, this may have by no means occurred,” she stated, her voice breaking. “Thanks for being my household and thanks for caring about Alissa as a lot as I do. This course of has been absolute hell. I by no means wished to get on media, I by no means wished to make my very own podcast, however we did it, you guys.”

For updates or to listen to the journey Sarah went on in bringing justice for Alissa, go to the Voices for Justice website.