Ever since its premiere in 1978, ABC’s ’20/20′ has been delving deep into one enigmatic true-crime tale after another to really shine a light upon the dark, twisted, sordid side of human nature. Thus, of course, its season 45 episode 37, aptly entitled ‘Since You’ve Been Gone,’ chronicling the inexplicable 2001 disappearance of teenager Alissa Marie Turney, is absolutely no different. So now, if you simply wish to learn more about this — with a specific focus on the events to have transpired, ensuing investigations, as well as overall aftermath — we’ve got the details for you.
What Happened to Alissa Turney?
At the age of 17, Alissa was reportedly a typical high school junior thanks to her complex familial relations, steady boyfriend, and part-time local job, only for things to soon turn upside down. The truth is this Arizona native used to reside with her stepfather Michael Turney and 12-year-old half-sister Sarah at the time — her mother had sadly passed away — meaning the situation wasn’t great. After all, according to reports, the patriarch was strict with her while simultaneously being laid back to Sarah, plus she had little support since her four elder siblings had already moved out too.
Nevertheless, at around 11 am on May 17, 2001, Alissa poked her head into her boyfriend’s class and told him she was leaving this last day before summer break early to spend time with family. As per records, Michael had been the one to drop her off in the morning as usual and had come to pick her up for lunch too, but tension between them quickly rose again till the point of no return. They’d apparently argued over her instance of needing more freedom, just for her to ultimately storm off into her room and then not even attend a party she’d planned on joining in the evening.
It ostensibly wasn’t until Michael returned home hours later that he found Alissa missing — there was merely a note in her room claiming she’d run away to stay with an aunt in California. He hence immediately contacted the police, only for her to blatantly be deemed a runaway until it came to light she’d not just left behind all her belongings but also never showed at her relatives.’ However, it wasn’t until mid-2005 when the authorities began suspecting foul play owing to some public statements as well as some actual inquiries, leading to details no one expected to uncover.
Has Alissa Turney Been Found? Is She Dead or Alive?
Despite the fact more than two decades have passed since Alissa was last seen alive in May 2001, her fate unfortunately remains unknown — there’s no trace of her, her body, or anything else. Nevertheless, owing to the peculiar circumstances surrounding her matter, many officials believe she died around the time of her disappearance itself at the hands of someone with ill intent. It was actually a false murder confession by serial killer Thomas Hymer in 2006 that drove detectives to begin digging deeper for the first time, and they soon identified Michael as their prime suspect.
Michael had not only reported Alissa missing on May 17 but also contacted the police again on May 24 to claim she’d called him from a pay phone in California before immediately hanging up. Though the pace didn’t pick up until the mid-2000s, until some of the teen’s closest loved ones asserted in official interviews that the stepfather had often been verbally as well as sexually abusive. She’d allegedly told friends he was inappropriate when she was younger, used to get very aggressive, and often called her “stupid” or “moron,” all of which are allegations he has since denied.
Yet then came 2008 and Michael’s refusal to give authorities the original “note,” let them search the family home, or sit down for a formal interview, driving them to acquire a search warrant. That’s when they recovered 26 homemade bombs along with a 98-page manifesto titled “Diary of a Madman Martyr,” detailing his plot to commit mass murder-suicide on his former peers. According to this document, he wholeheartedly believed two “assassins” from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers had kidnapped, killed, and buried Alissa in Desert Center, California.
Therefore, Michael planned to blow up the Union Hall and kill himself in the process as a form of revenge — he was thankfully caught before things went too far without any concrete evidence. He ultimately pleaded guilty concerning this matter in a Phoenix court in March 2010 and was sentenced to a maximum of 10 years behind bars, just to be released for good in August 2017. Regardless, his freedom didn’t last for long because he was arrested, indicted, and charged with second-degree murder in the death of Alissa in August 2020 — albeit he maintained his innocence.
The truth is the 2008 search of the Turney household had also yielded the fact Michael had installed surveillance cameras throughout his home, but none were recorded the day Alissa went missing. Then there’s the fact he’d even transferred the $1,860 his stepdaughter had in her bank account six months after she allegedly ran away; funds which hadn’t been touched since the fateful day. Yet arguably the strangest aspect is that there were reportedly several homemade contacts between these two too, one of which dated back to 1999 and declared he had never molested her.
Michael thus stood trial for the count against him in July 2023, during which his daughter Sarah testified she’d once asked what had happened to Alissa, only for him to say he’d tell her on his deathbed. But alas, as soon as the state rested their case on the 17th, his attorneys filed a motion for acquittal on the grounds there was no proof the then-teen was even dead, which a county judge soon granted. As a result, Michael was acquitted as well as granted freedom before the matter could make its way to the jury, meaning Alissa’s case unfortunately remains unsolved to this day.
Read More: Where is Michael Turney Now?