Gerald Turner: 'Halloween Killer' hearing moved to Dane County

State wants to prove he is violent sex offender
Posted at 12:23 PM, Apr 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-06 13:23:13-04

A probable cause hearing regarding whether the notorious "Halloween Killer" will have to remain in state custody has been postponed following a Fond du Lac County Judge's ruling that the case should be moved to Dane County. 

Gerald Turner was previously convicted of 2nd Degree Murder and sentenced to more than 38 years behind bars in connection with the death of 9-year-old Lisa Ann French. 

French was killed on Halloween night in Fond du Lac in 1973. An autopsy revealed she died of shock after Turner, her neighbor, sexually assaulted her. 

Weeks after the little girl went missing, her naked body was found inside of a plastic garbage bag tossed in a farm field about four miles from the city. 

Another plastic bag found nearby contained her clothing. 

Turner's mandatory release date from Racine Correctional Institution was February 1, and he was released into the custody of Wisconsin's Department of Health Services. 

He's currently being held at a secure, state-run mental health facility in Mauston, Wis.

The Attorney General's office is seeking that Turner be classified as sexually violent under Wisconsin's Chapter 980 law which would result in an indefinite commitment to a secure mental health facility. 

On Friday morning, prosecutors from the Wisconsin Department of Justice appeared in court to argue that there was probable cause for Turner to remain in state custody. 

The state would then move forward with attempting to prove Turner is a violent sex offender. 

Assistant Attorney General Devra Ayala said in court that Turner plans to return to the Madison area if released from state custody, but has nowhere to live and would likely be homeless. 

Turner was previously found not sexually violent under Chapter 980 in a case that was tried in Dane County. 

So Friday morning, his attorney Robert Peterson argued the new case should also be moved to Dane County. 

"This is the same underlying offense, the same parties and the same claims. It's just a different time," Peterson said. 

Fond du Lac County Judge Robert Wirtz agreed and ordered the case be moved back to Dane County. 

Ayala said the DOJ will appeal the decision. 

Peterson said the reason the state can once again attempt to have Turner classified as sexually violent under Chapter 980 is because of a previous parole revocation. 

The state's petition to have Turner detained under Chapter 980 is an allegation. Turner is presumed not to be sexually violent until the state proves otherwise. 

If probable cause is eventually found for the state to proceed to trial, a jury would have to unanimously find Turner is mentally ill and also a risk for reoffending. 

If found guilty under Chapter 980, Turner's commitment to a mental health facility would be indefinite -- until it's established that he is no longer sexually violent. 

Lisa Ann French's mother and sister have been circulating an online petition in an effort to keep Turner behind bars. 

It's so far collected more than 25,000 signatures.