If there’s one thing absolutely nobody can deny, it’s that the May 17, 2001, disappearance of Alissa Marie Turney left not only her loved ones but also the entire nation baffled to their very core. After all, as carefully chronicled in ABC’s ’20/20: Since You’ve Been Gone,’ there’s been no trace of this 17-year-old since the fateful day and it’s believed her stepdad was somehow involved. Yet for now, if you simply wish to learn more about the two loudest voices fighting to attain some much-needed justice for her — her siblings Sarah and James Turney — we’ve got you covered.
Who Are Sarah and James Turney?
Although Alissa was born to proud parents Barbara Farner and Stephen Strahm on April 3, 1984, she reportedly grew up in a wholly blended family from the time she was around three in 1987. She actually had an elder biological brother plus three elder stepsiblings in the form of Michael Roy Turney’s children from a previous relationship, and then came Sarah as a maternal half-sister. However, because Michael had adopted both Alissa as well as her brother almost as soon as he’d tied the knot with Barbara, there was reportedly little to no differentiation among the youngsters.
But alas, the Turney siblings definitely noticed the way Michael allegedly paid extra attention to Alissa, her safety, and her whereabouts in every sense of the term by the time 2001 rolled around. In fact, according to brother James, he was so uptight, strict, and controlling towards her in particular that he initially didn’t even realize it was turning their personal connection unpleasantly tense. Even Sarah, who was 12 at the time of her sister’s vanishing, once expressed, “My dad always wanted to know where Alissa was — and what she was doing. My dad was often frantic about Alissa.”
The truth is all elder siblings had moved out of the Turney household by the time Alissa turned 17, but Sarah was just finishing up seventh grade and hence on a local water park field trip on May 17. “I don’t remember anything unusual about [dad’s] behavior [on the fateful day],” she once said. “But he was late, so I’d walked to a friend’s house nearby, phoned him, and told him that’s where I was… He was frantic that Alissa wasn’t picking up her cell phone, one of those Nokia phones that was like a brick… The only thing that was unusual was something I realized years later.”
Sarah continued, “I was smoking cigarettes with my friends that day. Obviously a 12-year-old shouldn’t be smoking… I must have smelt of cigarettes when I got into his truck; I was smoking only minutes earlier. And yet, he never said anything about it. Any other time I would have been in so much trouble.” This, combined with other pieces of Michael’s behavior over the decades, is what ultimately drove this youngster to change the perspective her father had nothing to do with her half-sister’s vanishing, and so she now examines the same through social media/entertainment platforms.
Where Are Sarah and James Turney Now?
It was in June 2019 that Sarah launched the ‘Voices for Justice’ podcast to examine Alissa’s case, just to eventually evolve it into general true crime to not jeopardize continuing investigations. Moreover, because Michael’s response to her 2017 question concerning what happened to her half-sister was that he’d tell on his deathbed, she didn’t hesitate to testify against him when he stood trial for second-degree murder in July 2023. Yet, in the end, the proceedings didn’t pan out in the way she’d hoped — he was acquitted — driving her and James to release a statement through her ongoing, successful podcast.
“While, of course, this is not the result any of us wanted, we’re grateful for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for taking Alissa’s case to trial,” Arizona-based victim’s advocate as well as podcast host Sarah stated. “[The true-crime community] became Alissa’s Army and surrounded us both with love. I will never forget that.” She then directly addressed her half-sister, “I love you, and I’m sorry. You moved mountains to protect me from the reality of our lives so I could have the best childhood possible. That is something I can never repay you for. I just hope you know that I tried and that you deserved so much better.”
To all this, Chassis Engineering Director and Oregon family man James added, “Like my sister, Sarah, my brother and I want to extend our thanks to all of you who have contributed in the process of trying to find justice for our sister Alissa. This would not have happened without your dedication and support.” Nevertheless, the siblings concluded by asserting they’ll continue to fight for Alissa until they receive some much-needed concrete answers.