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Local Man Sentenced To 50 Years For Enhanced Manslaughter

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By John Elizondo and Christine McCarthy

WACO - A jury sentenced 27-year-old Jacob Scott Turner to 50 years in prison on Thursday, after convicting him of reckless manslaughter for killing a woman in a fiery car crash last summer.

The jury took about 30 minutes to deliberate before unanimously deciding his sentence.

In the enhanced manslaughter case, Turner faced a range of five to 99 years or life. Gabrielle Massey, the McLennan County Assistant District Attorney, suggested the jury consider a term of 64 years for each year the victim, Peggy Cantrell, lived.

Turner's charge was enhanced manslaughter because he had three previous felony convictions in past years. While out on probation for calling in fraudulent prescriptions, he was caught transporting marijuana and was arrested in Arizona. He spent time behind bars there before returning to McLennan County Jail for the probation violation.

Eventually, Turner was released and was out on parole at the time of the accident.

On Wednesday, the jury found Turner guilty of vehicular manslaughter.

Turner crashed his car into Cantrell's in June of 2011 at the intersection of Bosque Blvd. and New Rd. Investigators determined he was driving up to 94 miles per hour at one point on the street and likely hit her at a "highway rate of speed."

Turner testified that he had just bought heroin in East Waco and was rushing home with it. Witness testimony on Tuesday afternoon showed Turner had small amounts of morphine, a key ingredient of heroin, in his blood at the time of the accident. Officers also said they found a spoon with traces of heroin on it in Turner's car.

More witness testimony showed Turner called his own mother after the accident instead of reporting it to police first.

"He knew what he was doing. He chose to drive at those speeds. He chose to leave that home and go get drugs. And he chose to try to cover up his acts by hurrying home. And those actions resulted in her death," said McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna, who added that Turner's sentence was justice for Cantrell's family.

Witnesses for the defense said Turner had been a smart, fun-loving kid growing up, but he injured his arm playing high school basketball and became addicted to hydrocodone. That dependence then spiraled into an addiction to hard drugs, they said.

Turner's defense attorney, Alan Bennett, asked the jury in closing arguments, "Let's not throw his life away. You're not here to punish him on his lifestyle. You're punishing him for this offense."

Cantrell's pastor Buddy Sipe agreed with others that the fatal accident was a huge loss for both the Cantrell and Turner families.

"It was a gut-wrenching thing," Sipe said. "There were no winners in this thing. Everyone lost."

The state sympathized with Turner's family but stressed the importance of a harsh sentence.

"The defendant's family can still go see him. The defendant's family can write him letters. The defendant's family may have contact visits where they may be able to hug him again," Reyna said. "Mrs. Cantrell's family can only go visit a grave marker."

Turner could be eligible for parole in 25 years.

After Thursday's sentencing, Cantrell's daughter gave a victim impact statement, saying she misses her mother but forgives Turner for what he did. Turner thanked her.

"We know that this can't bring Mrs. Cantrell back. We hope that the justice that our office was able to achieve for this family will help somehow begin the healing process for her family, as well as showing those individuals in McLennan County that, if you choose to make decisions like this - in senseless acts of violence take away innocent citizens' lives - that you will be punished severely," Reyna said.

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