The true-crime genre is filled with sad and troubling tales. There have been stories of total injustices and deep sorrow, but in the last 12 months, one particular case has struck a chord with listeners. The dedication of a family member and the podcasting community may have finally paid off. It has been more than 19 years since anyone has seen Alissa Turney. The 17-year-old high school junior vanished without a trace in May 2001 after leaving her high school in Paradise Valley, Arizona. In the last two years, Alissa’s sister, Sarah Turney, has worked tirelessly to bring awareness to the case, with the ultimate goal of getting justice for Alissa. Sarah’s biological father, and Alissa’s adoptive father, Michael Turney, has officially been arrested and charged for Alissa’s presumed murder. It isn’t the first time that attention from a podcast has led to an arrest in long-forgotten cold cases.
Who are Alissa and Sarah Turney?
Alissa and Sarah Turney are sisters who were raised in Arizona. Sarah and Alissa’s mother died of cancer when they were young, leaving Michael to raise both girls. In 2001, Michael claimed that Alissa ran away after an argument. Later, according to ABC, he alleged that the teen left a note stating she was leaving and would not be back. The note, which most people think was written under duress or at a previous date, never sat right with investigators. Alissa left behind her cell phone and never touched her bank account again. She had $1,800 in the account from a part-time job.
Sarah has stated that, for years, she simply believed that Alissa had run away, but after Micheal was arrested in 2010 on different charges, things changed quickly. According to court documents, Michael was arrested for the possession of destructive devices. He served several years in prison for storing 16 pipe bombs before being released. Shortly after Michael’s release, Sarah began searching for answers about her missing sister. What she uncovered was a web of lies and allegations of sexual abuse. Sarah is largely credited with helping bring national attention to her sister’s case, which led to Michael’s arrest. Michael was arrested in Arizona on second-degree murder charges on August 20. While Alissa’s body has not been recovered, other murder cases have been successfully tried without remains.
Sarah Turney has been seeking justice for her sister through podcasts
Sarah was only 12 when her sister disappeared, but it wasn’t until fairly recently that she came to terms with the fact that her father, Michael, may have been directly responsible for Alissa’s disappearance. Since then, she’s taken to the podcasting circuit, hoping to shed light on the little-known case. In the last year, Sarah has also turned to TikTok to reach an even wider audience. She has 1 million followers on the platform.
She first appeared on Status Pending, a true-crime podcast dedicated to cold cases in 2018. The following year, she appeared on True Crime Twins and Missing Muara Murray in hopes of getting more eyes on her sister’s case. Eventually, she launched her podcast, Voices For Justice. On her podcast, she delved deeply into Alissa’s backstory and how she came to conclude that her own father had a hand in her sister’s disappearance. Just a few weeks before the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office announced Michael’s arrest, Sarah appeared on Other People’s Lives, a podcast hosted by Joe Santigato and Greg Dybec. Each week, Dybec and Santigato interview an ordinary person with an extraordinary story. Sarah took to social media to express her gratitude to those who have followed Alissa’s story.
Alissa’s case isn’t the only one that may have been solved through podcasts
Alissa’s case may not have been solved by Sarah’s podcast, but in many ways, Sarah is directly responsible for the arrest of Michael. The national attention brought by the podcast and her tireless investigation of the case helped investigators to further zero in on Michael, who has been the prime suspect for years. That has been the case with other cold cases, too.
Earlier this year, The Murder Squad podcast was credited with helping to close a 40-year-old cold case. Through the attention of the podcast, a listener was compelled to upload their DNA to a database. That DNA helped lead investigators to the murderer. In 2017, Payne Lindsay’s podcast Up and Vanished A pair of podcasters from Massachusetts are hoping their podcast about Muara Murray, a missing University of Massachusetts student will help solve her disappearance.