LOCKPORT – Paul S. Turley was not in Niagara County Court on Monday to learn that a jury convicted him on charges that he sexually abused two children. But his victims and the prosecutors are holding out hope that he will be face to face with a judge when he is scheduled to be sentenced April 19.
“I can’t express how bad I want [Turley captured],” a male relative of one of his victims told reporters. “I know it’ll be a great day. It’ll be closure for us and the girls.”
“I think he should hear the comments that are going to be made [at sentencing],” Assistant District Attorney Cheryl L. Nichols said.
“He can run from a lot of things. He can’t run from the verdict and he can’t run from the kind of person he is,” Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth R. Donatello said.
A jury deliberated for 2½ hours Monday before convicting Turley, 47, of molesting two girls in North Tonawanda between August 1996 and June 1998.
County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas, who presided over the five-day trial, could sentence Turley to as long as 39 years in prison on his convictions for first- and second-degree course of sexual conduct against a child and first-degree sexual abuse.
The victims in the case, both now 21 years old, told police in November 2011 that they had been repeatedly fondled by Turley when they were 5 to 7 years old.
One of the women said she was fondled again by Turley on Christmas Day 2003, when she was 12.
Turley, 47, of Lincoln Avenue, Dunkirk, left the Niagara County Courthouse at the lunch break last Wednesday, just after jury selection was completed, and has not been seen or heard from since that afternoon, when he told defense attorney D. Daniel Stevanovic by phone that he was in the parking lot of a Tim Hortons. He didn’t say which one.
Since then, his wife, Diane, also has disappeared, as have the family dogs.
Last week, Farkas ordered the forfeiture of a $50,000 bail bond, posted by Turley’s mother a few days after his arrest Jan. 4, 2012. If he is found, Turley will be held without bail; if not, he will be sentenced in absentia as the search goes on, Farkas said.
Three jurors interviewed after the verdict said they all wondered where Turley had gone, but no one told them. Farkas and the attorneys discussed the notion of telling the jury he had left, but decided not to do so.
Farkas met with the jury after the verdict and told them what had really happened.
The jurors interviewed said they didn’t think Turley’s presence would have made much difference in the outcome.
“We did not take it in mind,” said Brandi Simmang of North Tonawanda. “The damning piece of evidence in the trial was the phone call.”
The prosecution played a recording of a Dec. 19, 2011, phone call placed to Turley by one of the victims, which pertained primarily to her own situation.
During the call, Turley said, “Well, maybe I’m just a bad person. You want to blame me for everything, go ahead … You can spit on my grave when I die, I mean, if it makes you feel any better.”
The woman who made the call tried to bring the other victim’s situation into the conversation, but Turley denied any contact with her. “An opportunity like that would never come up,” he said on the recording.
But Turley told the first victim, “In my misguided mind, the things we were doing together were not bad.”
Nichols said, “We asked [the jury] for justice. We think they gave us justice in this case.”