PROVO — The attorney for a former BYU student accused of trying on several occasions to poison his wife said his client has expressed interest in keeping his marriage with the woman he allegedly tried to kill.

Paul Turner, who is undergoing a mental competency evaluation at the Utah County Jail, appeared in 4th District Court to enter pleas to four counts of attempted aggravated murder, all first-degree felonies.

Judge Gary Stott, however, cut the hearing short, noting that Turner was still being evaluated by a psychiatrist at the jail and that entering a plea at this time would be inappropriate.

Public defender Richard Gale said he filed for the evaluation out of concern for Turner's mental state at the time of the alleged crimes in the summer of 2001. Gale said Turner may have suffered from a "diminished mental capacity" at the time.

Police say the 26-year-old electrical engineering student turned himself in on Oct. 28 at the urging of his LDS bishop. Turner allegedly confessed to trying to kill his wife and unborn child by lacing cookies with rat poison. The woman and baby are fine.

During a preliminary hearing last month, Sarah Turner testified that she thought the cookies her husband baked looked funny.

On a second attempt, police allege that Turner replaced his wife's injection medication with hydrochloric acid. Sarah Turner testified that the injection, which she was taking to prevent blood clots during her pregnancy, hurt a great deal but did not cause serious harm.

Turner also allegedly put what he thought were poisonous mushrooms into spaghetti sauce, which also failed to poison his wife.

But despite the attempts on her life, Gale said Sarah Turner has expressed an interest in seeing her husband. Gale said no divorce had been filed and that Sarah Turner had asked for visitation with her husband at the jail. Although Paul Turner has also expressed a desire to see his wife, Gale said he has told his client to hold off until the mental evaluation is completed.

A hearing has been scheduled for Feb. 4 to determine if Turner is mentally fit to stand trial.


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