Retrial ends with conviction of Fort Bend County man who killed his estranged wife, mother-in-law in 2009, authorities say

Fort Bend County authorities described chilling new details that the children recalled in court

Albert James Turner seen in this undated photo. (Fort Bend County District Attorney's Office, Fort Bend County District Attorney's Office)

HOUSTON – Albert James Turner was convicted Friday by a jury of capital murder for stabbing his wife and mother-in-law to death in 2009, Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release Saturday.

The 56-year-old Rosenberg man was sentenced to life without parole.

Albert Turner was a prison guard who was often abusive at home, according to Assistant District Attorney Lesleigh Morton. On Dec. 26, 2009, Turner’s wife, Keitha, made the decision to leave Turner. Keitha and their four children, all under the age of 13, packed their belongings and moved into Keitha’s parents’ house on Chestnut Drive in Rosenberg.

Turner came home and discovered a note that Keitha left for him. He then went to Keitha’s parents’ house with a gift for her. But Keitha’s mother, Betty Jo Frank, prevented Turner from entering her house and speaking with Keitha.

That evening around midnight, the children heard Keitha screaming from her bedroom. One child saw Turner walking out of Keitha’s room with a knife in his hand. Turner had cut her neck.

The district attorney’s office said in its news release about the verdict that another child witnessed Turner stick a knife in Betty Jo Frank’s throat so deep that it “severed her windpipe completely and cut into the bone.” Authorities said Turner then fled the state, but he was caught three months later.

A jury first convicted Turner for this crime in 2011 and sentenced him to death. The district attorney’s office said in late 2018, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the conviction, holding that the defendant’s attorneys had to represent their client’s interests despite their legal tactics to preserve his life. In the defendant’s 2011 jury trial, his trial attorney conceded guilt in an effort to avoid the death penalty while Turner insisted he was innocent.

In 2017, another Fort Bend County jury was asked to determine whether Turner was legally competent during his 2011 jury trial. After a trial limited to that issue, the jury found the defendant was competent during his trial in 2011.

On Sept. 9, 2021, a jury was impaneled for the re-trial of the defendant. In addition to calling some of the original witnesses from the 2011 trial, three of Turner’s children testified against him in court for the first time, according to the district attorney’s office. Video depositions were offered during the original trial due to their young age nearly 12 years ago. Turner also testified again.

The jury deliberated for approximately four hours before returning a guilty verdict.

“Keitha Turner and Betty Jo Frank gave their lives to protect their children and grandchildren from the defendant’s abuse. Now amazing young adults, these children were brave enough to tell the jury about the horrible murders they witnessed,” said Special Prosecutor Sherry Robinson. “The jurors listened to the graphic evidence, carefully considered it, and returned a just verdict of guilty. It was an honor to watch all of these courageous participants mete out justice for the Turner and Frank families.”

“Statistics show the most dangerous time for family violence victims is when they leave their abusers,” said Chief Domestic Violence Prosecutor Chad Bridges. “Keitha Turner and Betty Jo Frank were murdered less than 24 hours after Keitha left the defendant. This is why the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office is committed to providing services and protections for family violence victims.”

“Our highest priority is the protection of women and children,” District Attorney Brian Middleton added. “Trials involving domestic violence are always painful for the victims and their families, as well as every person involved in the process. In consideration of the immense harm caused in these cases, we will zealously pursue justice for all victims of domestic violence.”

Turner was tried in the 268th District Court before Presiding Judge R. O’Neil Williams. Because the state did not seek the death penalty at retrial, a life sentence without parole was automatic upon the jury’s determination of guilt.

The case was tried by chief domestic violence prosecutor Chad Bridges, Assistant District Attorney Lesleigh Morton, and former deputy chief of domestic violence prosecutor Sherry Robinson, who, the district attorney’s office noted, came out of retirement to finish the case she’d worked on for years.

About the Author:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.