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Dorothea Turley


38-year-old Dorothea Turley, once a nationally renowned beauty selected as a “modern Venus” by New York’s Evening World newspaper in 1916, was away from her house in Apache County, Arizona, when her 15-year-old daughter Mattie shot Ernest Turley twice in the back on November 18, 1933. Ernest Turley, who was Mattie’s father and Dorothea’s husband, died from the wounds about six weeks later.
 
Mattie initially claimed she had been trying to shoot a skunk when she tripped and accidentally shot her father. However, when questioned by the sheriff, Mattie quickly changed her story, telling the sheriff that her mother had ordered her to shoot Ernest. Mattie explained that her mother had been having an affair with a younger cowboy, Kent Pearce, and a Ouija board had told Mattie and Dorothea that Ernest must be killed so that Dorothea could marry Pearce. According to Mattie, her mother had told her that she must carry out the Ouija board’s orders and could not be arrested for doing so.
 
After admitting her role in her father’s death, Mattie pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted murder and was sentenced to the State School for Girls at Randolph. Dorothea was charged with assault with the intent to commit murder but maintained her innocence. Contrary to what her daughter had said, Dorothea insisted that she had never discussed killing Ernest with her daughter, via Ouija board or otherwise. Instead, Dorothea said that Mattie had shot Ernest because she was angry about his rules and that Mattie was now trying to pin the murder on her.
 
At Dorothea’s trial in June 1934, the court refused to admit testimony as to Mattie's character. Dorothea was convicted of assault with intent to commit murder based mainly on the testimony of Mattie, and she was sentenced to 10 to 25 years in prison.
 
Three years later, on appeal, the Supreme Court of Arizona found that it had been prejudicial when the trial court’s refused to admit evidence regarding Mattie’s character that, if true, would have tended to destroy the belief in her good character. The court reversed Dorothea’s conviction and remanded the case for this reason. The charges against Dorothea were then dismissed.
 
– Meghan Barrett Cousino
State:AZ
County:Apache
Most Serious Crime:Attempted Murder
Reported Crime Date:1933
Convicted:1934
Exonerated:1936
Sentence:10 to 25 years
Race:Caucasian
Sex:Female
Age at the date of crime:38
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation