A former Cochranton man already facing charges for the alleged felony murder of his stepmother and half-brother and thefts of two motor vehicles was indicted Wednesday by the federal government for robbery.
Jack Elijah Turner, 21, was indicted on two charges by a federal grand jury in Erie allegedly robbing a Kwik Fill gas station at gunpoint on Aug. 11.
According to the Millcreek Police Department, who were among the investigators of the incident, Turner approached a clerk working at the station located at 3360 W. 38th St. at around 5:33 a.m. with a gun, demanding cash. After taking the money, Turner reportedly drove off in a silver four-door Sedan. This vehicle matched the description of a car Turner is accused of stealing from Shannon Whitman, his stepmother, after allegedly murdering her on Aug. 10 at her home. No one was hurt in the robbery.
For the robbery, Turner is facing charges of committing a Hobbs Act robbery and using and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence. A Hobbs Act robbery is a crime in which the accused obstructs, delays or affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce via robbery, extortion, conspiracy of robbery or extortion or threatens physical violence to any person or property “in furtherance of a plan or purpose.”
Turner could face a life sentence for these charges, in addition to a fine of $500,000 or both, according to United States Attorney Scott W. Brady. Assistant United States Attorney Christian A. Trabold is prosecuting the case. Investigation into the incident was performed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Pennsylvania State Police and the millcreek Police Department.
Turner is also accused of killing Darrin Whitman, his 10-year-old half-brother, in the same incident in which Shannon Whitman was killed. Turner’s father, Scott Whitman, was married to Shannon Whitman.
The two victims were killed by gunshot wounds to the head at their home in Randolph Township. Scott Whitman found the bodies in pools of blood upon returning home from work.
In addition to Shannon Whitman’s vehicle, which was a silver Lincoln MKS Sedan, Turner is also accused of stealing multiple items from the Whitman home, including a container of Suboxone medication, two firearms, a photograph, a small gray safe and a cigarette rolling machine and supplies.
Turner was declared a person of interest after the murders and a manhunt was launched for his capture. He was taken into custody in Charleston, West Virginia at a Greyhound bus station by the local police there on Aug. 14.
According to testimony given at a Nov. 1 preliminary hearing for the murders, Turner has denied killing his stepmother and half-brother, but acknowledged taking the Sedan. Pennsylvania State Trooper Chad Resetar said that in an interview he conducted with Turner on Aug. 15, the man said he arrived at the home with the intent of stealing the vehicle to commit a robbery, only to find it unlocked and running with the keys inside.
Turner initially denied ever going into the home, but Resetar said he later changed his story, and said that the car was not at the home when he initially arrived, so Turner stayed inside for a while before leaving to see a friend. Upon returning to the house, Turner said he found the vehicle unlocked and running, and proceeded to take it.
He is also facing charges for allegedly stealing a vehicle in Titusville the day before the murders. Turner allegedly took a 2016 Chevrolet Cruz from the 200 block of Brook Street on Aug. 9, around 3:46 a.m. The vehicle was later found by police in West Mead Township significantly damaged and abandoned in a gravel pit along Shartle Road.
Turner is facing a possibility of a life sentence from the double murders. He is currently confined to the Crawford County Correctional Facility, with no bail offered in his case.
In the murders of Shannon and Darrin Whitman, Turner is facing two counts of criminal homicide, felony 1 charges with a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment and fines of $50,000 each; one count of burglary, also a felony 1 offense with a maximum possible sentence of 20 years imprisonment and a fine of $25,000; two counts of theft by unlawful taking, felony 2 charges with a maximum possible sentence of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $25,000 each; one count of theft by unlawful taking at a felony 3 grading, carrying a maximum possible sentence of seven years imprisonment and a fine of $15,000; and one count of theft by unlawful taking at a misdemeanor 2 grading, carrying a maximum possible sentence of two years imprisonment and fines of $5,000 each.
For the alleged theft of the Chevrolet Cruise, Turner is facing three felony 3 offenses, consisting of one count of theft by unlawful taking — movable property, one count of receiving stolen property and one count of criminal mischief. Felony 3 charges carry with them a maximum possible sentence of seven years imprisonment and fines of $15,000 each. If convicted of all charges in this incident, Turner faces a combined maximum possible sentence of 21 years imprisonment and fines totaling $45,000.
Ray can be reached, by email, at email@example.com.