Wife in poison case seeks divorce and sole custody

Published: Wednesday, March 5 2003 10:58 a.m. MST

PROVO — The wife of a former BYU student charged with trying to poison her on several occasions while she was pregnant has filed for divorce and is seeking sole custody of their child.

Citing cruelty, great emotional distress and suffering, Sarah Grace Turner filed a petition for divorce in 4th District Court on Feb. 28.

In the divorce papers, Sarah Turner said the actions of her husband, Paul Turner, "reflect a callous disregard for the health, safety and welfare of the parties' minor child."

Paul Turner has been in the Utah County jail since Oct. 28, after turning himself in to police and allegedly confessed to trying to poison his wife by baking cookies laced with rat poison, switching her injection medication with fish tank cleaner and making a spaghetti dinner using what he believed were poisonous mushrooms.

Turner faces four first-degree felony counts of attempted aggravated murder: two counts for his wife and two counts for their then unborn child. Turner has entered not guilty pleas to the charges.

The divorce papers also allege Paul Turner was heavily into Internet pornography. Police believe Sarah Turner's disapproval of her husband's pornography habit was a factor in the alleged poisoning attempts.

In addition to pornography, Sarah Turner's attorney, Craig Snyder, alleges Paul Turner browsed Internet sites shopping for a hit man and for lists dealing with poisonous mushrooms.

An evidentiary hearing scheduled for Wednesday in 4th District Court was continued at the request of defense attorney Tom Means. "We need more time to investigate the contents of his computer," Means said.

Defense attorneys have been given a copy of Paul Turner's computer hard drive. Means said they want a state expert to determine whether the Web sites Turner allegedly visited are in fact on the hard drive.

The hearing was moved to March 28 before Judge Anthony Schofield.

Means said a motion to suppress Turner's alleged confession is also pending. Prosecutors say losing Turner's confession would leave them with little evidence to take Turner to trial and could force them to drop charges.

In her divorce petition, Sarah Turner is resisting attempts by her husband to visit with their baby at the jail. The papers also allege that on Oct. 18, 2002, Paul Turner left their then 8-month-old daughter alone and unattended for more than an hour.

She is asking the court for a protective order and to award her sole custody of the child. Paul Turner has yet to file a response to the divorce petition.

The couple were married in Reno on Aug. 11, 2000, according to the divorce petition.

Means said negotiations with prosecutors on a plea deal are continuing.


E-mail: gfattah@desnews.com

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