|Robert Turner was serving a 13-year prison sentence. (The Boston Globe/File 2006)|
Accessory to murders in 2005 kills self
One of the men convicted in the shocking murders of three rappers and their friend in a Dorchester basement in 2005 committed suicide yesterday in a state prison, officials said.
Robert Turner of Dorchester, 24, was found hanged by a bed sheet in his cell at the maximum security Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley at about 12:08 p.m. by a correctional officer delivering lunch, said a Department of Correction spokeswoman, Diane Wiffin. Turner was taken to Leominster Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at about 1:12 p.m., she said.
He was serving a 13-year prison sentence after being convicted on a charge of accessory after the fact and of weapon offenses in the infamous Bourneside killings, according to a statement from Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley at the time of his sentencing in April 2008. Turner would have been eligible for parole in April 2017, Wiffin said.
The Dec. 13, 2005, attack killed three members of a rap group known as Graveside and a friend who was visiting their recording studio on Bourneside Street. At the time, it was the city’s worst shooting in 10 years.
The circumstances of yesterday’s suicide are under investigation by the Correction Department, and the Worcester district attorney’s office has been notified, Wiffin said.
Leslie Walker, executive director of Prisoners’ Legal Services, an inmate advocacy group, said in a phone interview yesterday that Turner had contacted her office last month looking for help because he felt suicidal.
“He was feeling despondent, and he was on a suicide watch,’’ Walker said. “He wanted us to advocate for him. He was not feeling safe.’’
Walker said she did not have immediate access to records indicating why Turner was feeling bad or what her group did in an effort to help him. She said Turner took his life in the segregation unit of the prison, where inmates are isolated and confined to a small cell for 23 hours of the day.
“It’s very sad, and it is very bad news to hear for the family, for other prisoners, [and] for the staff,’’ she said. “It’s extremely sad that yet another suicide occurred in segregation.’’
Turner pleaded guilty to four counts of accessory after the fact and three counts of unlawfully carrying a firearm in the killings of Jason Bachiller, 21; Jihad Chankhour, 22; Edwin Duncan, 21; and Christopher Viera, 19, in the basement of Duncan’s home in 2005.
Calvin Carnes Jr. of Dorchester, then 21, was convicted on four counts of first-degree murder in June 2008 and was sentenced to four consecutive life terms in prison without the possibility of parole.
Turner admitted to being in the basement and watching Carnes kill the men, and he apologized in court to the victims’ families for not stopping him.
In August 2010, the Supreme Judicial Court rejected a motion from Carnes to seek a new trial based on statements from an inmate at Souza-Baranowski who asserted that Turner confessed to him that he was the real killer.
Conley’s office said at the time that those statements were not true and that the Shirley inmate had a history of trying to lighten his own sentence by giving authorities inaccurate information.
There have been no new developments in the case since Carnes’s appeal was denied by the SJC, said Jake Wark, a spokesman for Conley.
Michael C. Bourbeau of Hull, a lawyer who represented Turner, said the informant had “made life difficult’’ for his client and that Turner was very upset, even after Carnes’s motion had been dismissed.
He said Turner had felt remorse for the killing of the victims, one of whom he knew.
“He accepted his total responsibility, and he was paying the price for it,’’ Bourbeau said. “This is a bigger testament against what jailhouse informants can do. They really can destroy people’s lives.’’
Relatives of Turner could not be reached last night.
The Rev. Eugene F. Rivers III, director of the Ella J. Baker House in Dorchester, a group working to prevent violence, said Turner’s death will revive painful memories for those affected by the Bourneside murders.
“It just takes you to a bad, unbelievable kind of horrible place,’’ Rivers said in a phone interview last night. He said his prayers were with Turner’s family and the relatives of the Bourneside victims.
Rivers said the crime was “inconceivable in its brutality’’ and that on the night of the killings, he saw caution tape wrapped around his property, which is near the scene of the shootings.
“I thought something happened in my home,’’ he said, adding: “It was a terrifying night.’’
Wiffin said Turner’s death was the first inmate suicide in a state correctional facility this year and the ninth since 2004 at Souza-Baranowski.
Citing the Bureau of Justice Statistics, part of the US Justice Department, the Globe reported in July that suicides in state prisons had far outpaced the national average for inmate suicides by midway through last year.
A Globe Spotlight series in December 2007 showed deepening mental illness and misery in the state’s prisons and identified problems including botched background screenings on suicidal inmates, missing mental health records, and skipped security rounds by correction officers.
Travis Andersen of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Neal Riley can be reached at email@example.com.