Family seeks justice, closure in death of elderly couple in Augusta
Belinda Baker was working at her home in Virginia when she received a call from her uncle. She didn’t really think much of it and considered not answering since her uncle didn’t call her often.
She decided to pick up the phone.
“My uncle says, ‘You need to come home’,” Baker said.
Her father, Hilton Turner Sr., 75, had been shot and killed at his home on East Hale Street, near Magnolia Cemetery. Baker dropped her phone and began screaming; her husband quickly came to her aid and finished talking to her uncle.
As Baker was packing a bag to head to Augusta, a second call came. Her mother, Jeannette Turner, 73, had also been shot and killed at the home. They were both pronounced dead at 4 p.m. Feb. 17 inside the residence.
“I just could not believe it,” she said. “It’s just mind-blowing and devastating that this happened. You never get over losing a parent, but losing both parents violently like this, it’s unimaginable.”
Baker and her husband drove down the following day. Upon arriving in Augusta, they met with Richmond County Sheriff’s Office investigators and family members.
It has been six months since the murders occurred. No arrests have been made. She said it’s been a difficult six months trying to process the loss of her parents.
“We are disturbed that a thing like this could happen to them,” Baker said. “Not that anybody deserves to be killed but they just didn’t run in any circles that would invite violence in their own home.”
All Baker and her family kept hearing for months was that “nobody has come forward with information,” so they decided to collect money and offer a $5,000 reward to try to inspire the community to speak up about the shootings.
“It’s not a large amount. Augusta being what Augusta is, we thought that was a good amount of money to inspire someone to come forward,” she said. “We understood from police that no one was going forward with information.”
She can’t speak to specific information about the case but credited Richmond County homicide investigator Sgt. Chris Langford for his compassion, openness and always quick response to any question or concerns she has. Baker said Langford gathered the information and sent out the news release so people were aware of the reward being offered.
The family is planning to gather outside the Turner’s bungalow on East Hale Street on Saturday, Aug. 21, at 6 p.m. in a prayer circle asking for justice. Baker said she hopes the prayer circle will motivate someone to provide information about her parents’ murders.
“Because no one has come forward, because the hoopla has died down, we wanted to make a statement in that neighborhood that this is headline news still,” she said. “Somebody knows something. Y’all knew that at 126 East Hale Street these two individuals didn’t deserve this. Y’all knew these two were solid, good standing members of this community.
“We want y’all to get together, say something, come forward, point some fingers, help the police solve this.”
She wishes someone would come forward so they can get some closure.
“There was so much more that my parents had in them to do. My family was robbed of all the love, care and giving that was in my parents. They did not deserve this,” Baker said.
Life in Augusta was good
Baker and her brother, Hilton Jr., were raised in Augusta. She remembers her parents as steady and engaged.
“All my life, my dad worked just to provide for my brother and I … it was like having Superman,” she said. “They were perfect for us. They loved us. What we lacked in money and wealth, we got in love.”
Hilton Sr. worked for the Augusta Housing Authority for more than 40 years, with the last 12 as maintenance supervisor. He was also a volunteer firefighter with the East Augusta Fire Department and a member of the East Augusta Brotherhood Association.
Jeannette worked at University Hospital, Doctor’s Hospital and the Medical College of Georgia serving patients for 26 years before retiring in 2001.
The Turners met while growing up in the Laney-Walker area in the 1950s and 1960s. Baker said they were high school sweethearts and were married for 55 years.
Jeannette was very involved in her children’s lives.She was part of the PTA at school and made sure to attend any band performance they had. Baker said their parents not only cared about them but also their classmates and other people in their neighborhood.
“I knew that they were good solid people that cared about others. When I look back, I marvel at how my classmates and my brother’s classmates looked at them as parents,” she said. “Anybody I would bring home or my brother would bring home to meet them, they would become family.”
Baker said she would try to visit Augusta at least twice a year, maybe more depending if there was something going on or her parents needed help. She celebrated Christmas in 2019 in Augusta but didn’t return until the first week of October because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That was the last time she would see them in person.
Their last conversation was days before they were both killed. The week before, she had spoken to her mother, telling her that she was trying to visit them soon. She remembers during the call how her mother told her she loved her and that she was proud to have her as her daughter.
Her mother was mostly bed-ridden with her father taking care of her, so she didn’t talk much. It was a couple of days later on Valentine’s Day that Baker last spoke to her father.
The conversation was mostly about the fact the couple had forgotten about Valentine’s Day, and Hilton was getting ready to go out to get food and buy Jeannette a card. Baker ended the call the same way she ends all calls with her family.
“I always end phone calls with my family, regardless of who it is, I always say ‘I love you.’ It’s a habit I developed because I didn’t come home often,” she said.
That’s something she takes solace in – she was at least able to say one last “I love you” to her dad.
Getting closure, seeking peace
She is hoping whoever is responsible for this comes forward and accepts the consequences of their actions.
“If you can sleep at night having come into their home and spilled their blood in the very place where they laid their heads at night, there is a darkness in you that is not going to give you any peace,” she said. “You need to pay for taking these two beautiful souls from our family. You need to pay for this.”
Anyone with information about the Turner murders can contact the sheriff’s office at (706) 821-1020 or (706) 821-1080.