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The Case of Mary Anne Holmes

Air Date: Oct. 8, 2013

Cold Justice Insider Blog: Episode 6 "Small Town Tragedy"

October 9, 2013

By Murray Newman

Since 1999, Murray Newman has practiced criminal law, handling cases from DWI to Capital Murder and everything in between. He serves as a consultant for Cold Justice. Follow him on Twitter and visit his blog.

Of all the cases investigated during the first season of Cold Justice, the murder of Mary Anne Holmes was the scariest. Her brutal murder, which happened in front of her two small children, was made so much more frightening by the fact that it had happened in such a peaceful, small community like Thatcher, Arizona.

From the start of the investigation, the crime scene seemed like something out of a horror movie, and many of the investigators involved thought that it looked like the work of a potential serial killer. The scene was extremely disorganized and yet the killer had left no trace of evidence that could have led investigators to him. Two young witnesses were thankfully left physically unharmed, yet could not identify their mother’s attacker. There were three possible suspects and each one initially seemed as likely as the next to have been responsible for the murder.

The investigation was one of those instances where our team had mountains of information to sort through and all types of possible leads, yet none of them had brought investigators to a final conclusion. As the Cold Justice team began their re-investigation, it became clear very early on that it would be a very emotional experience. Because Ashleigh and Sarah Holmes had been such young children when they witnessed their mother’s death, there was a strong sense of urgency to do everything possible to solve this case. Both Ashleigh and Kathy Mullenaux, the next-door neighbor, painted a very chilling portrait of the discovery of Mary Anne’s body that I will never forget.

As the investigators began to eliminate David Black and John Bursee as possible suspects in Mary Anne’s murder, the focus shifted to Phillip Turley. His fascination with Mary Anne was well documented in his own words, as he kept a very detailed journal on his feelings for her. Women that Turley had dated told investigators disturbing details of his “fantasy life” that seemed consistent with details of the crime scene.

I can’t begin to describe the level of tension and anticipation when Investigators Alan Brown and Kendall Curtis interviewed Phil Turley at the end of the investigation. Unlike many other suspects that the police interview, Turley was extremely intelligent and to make matters more difficult, he had advanced information that he was about to be interviewed by the investigators.

Alan and Kendall interviewed Turley for about three hours as everyone else on the team listened in. Despite initially seeming agitated about being interviewed, Turley was ultimately cooperative and answered every question that the two investigators had for him. He had rational and reasoned answers for almost everything, but at times seemed as if he were taunting the investigators. At the end of the interview, Phillip Turley had done nothing to further implicate himself in the murder of Mary Anne Holmes. Whether that was because he was factually innocent or just too smart to get caught is up for debate.

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