MEADVILLE – A Cochranton-area man who led police on a manhunt through parts of Mercer County in August has been charged with two counts of criminal homicide and other crimes for allegedly killing his step-mother and his half-brother at their Randolph Township in August.
Jack Elijah Turner, 21, was arraigned Monday afternoon on multiple counts filed by Pennsylvania State Police for allegedly shooting Shannon Whitman, 49, and Darrin Whitman, 10, on Aug. 10 at the home of Scott, Shannon and Darrin Whitman at 13185 Route 198 near Guys Mills.
Shannon and Darrin Whitman each died of a single gunshot wound to the head, and their deaths were ruled homicides by Crawford County Coroner Scott Schell.
Turner was ordered held without bond on the new charges as the criminal homicide counts each carry a maximum life in prison sentence, if convicted. A charge with a life sentence is not eligible for bail, Schultz said.
Turner had been considered by the District Attorney's Office and state police as a person of interest in the case after the bodies of Shannon and Darrin Whitman were found inside their Randolph Township home by a relative the night of Aug. 10.
On Aug. 11, Turner was charged by state police at Meadville with theft for allegedly taking a 2009 Lincoln MKS auto from the Whitman home on Aug. 10.
There was a nationwide manhunt to find Turner, who was arrested Aug. 14 in Charleston, W.Va., by the U.S. Marshal Service and Charleston Police Department on a Crawford County warrant for the alleged car theft.
Turner waived extradition in Charleston on Aug. 21 and was returned to Crawford County on Aug. 28. Turner has been held in the Crawford County jail in lieu of $100,000 bond on the car theft count following his return to the county.
Turner was arraigned by Magisterial District Judge Rita Marwood on Monday on two counts of homicide, one count of burglary and four counts of theft via video conference from the jail.
With the new charges filed Monday, "We're withdrawing the theft of vehicle case as part of the new criminal complaint," Schultz said. The theft count for allegedly taking the auto is one of the counts in the new case against Turner.
Turner is accused of taking a .22-caliber rifle, a .22-caliber semi-automatic handgun and miscellaneous items valued at $185, according to the criminal complaint.
"Those two weapons (taken from the home) were not the murder weapon," Schultz told the Tribune.
Schultz confirmed that one gun was used to kill both victims but wouldn't comment on its caliber.
"I'm not going to make comments about any evidence we have against Mr. Turner," Schultz said.
Schultz said the charges filed Monday were the result of an almost two month investigation by state police and his office.
"Many Pennsylvania State Police troopers worked tirelessly during the investigation of these brutal murders," Schultz said. "The members of the criminal investigation unit of the Pennsylvania State Police should be commended for their excellent work in this case."
State police received a great deal of cooperation from the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, Titusville Police Department, Millcreek Township Police Department in suburban Erie, the Saint Johns County Sheriff’s Office, St. Augustine, Fla., and the Charleston Police Department in apprehending Turner, Schultz said.
"Good law enforcement requires teamwork, and this case is a prime example of that," Schultz said.
Millcreek Township Police Department charged Turner for the alleged early morning robbery of a Kwik Fill gas station Aug. 11 on West 38th Street while he was on the run. Turner is accused of robbery, possession of a firearm prohibited and receiving stolen property and misdemeanor charges of theft by unlawful taking, terroristic threats and possession of weapon in the robbery. Turner has not yet been arraigned on charges in that case.
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.