Local News

Family, Friends Fill Clinton Auditorium To Remember Children Killed In Onslow Fire

Posted July 17, 2003 7:12 a.m. EDT

— A woman who lost five children and a grandchild in a fire in Onslow County last Wednesday is out of jail and waiting to find out if she will face more charges.

Sampson County deputies escorted Mary Alice Turner to the children's funeral Wednesday.

The service was held at the Sampson Middle School auditorium because it was the only place in Clinton big enough to hold mourners.

At a service the town will not soon forget, six caskets were carried in one by one, the smallest one representing the largest heartbreak.

Four of Turner's children remain in critical condition at the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill.

Officials said Turner was wanted in three counties on check forgery charges. She was arrested Monday on eight counts of forgery and uttering, eight counts of worthless checks, providing false information to a law enforcement officer, and driving while license revoked in Sampson County.

"She's holding up as best she can; It's tearing her apart that her children are gone," relative Angela Turner said.

Some family members questioned the timing of Turner's arrest.

"They didn't have to escort her in that way," Turner's step-grandmother, Nancy Walker said.

"She's been on the run since March, not only from us, but Wayne County and Johnston County," Sheriff Jimmy Thorton said.

Thorton said Turner committed the crimes last year and was using an alias. He said there was no guarantee he would be able to find Turner after the funeral.

"It's real unfortunate that children died in that fire, but at the same time, we've got to uphold what our responsibility is, too," he said.

Wednesday afternoon, Turner posted a reduced bond and was released from the Sampson County Jail.

Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell said charges are pending against Turner. The Onslow County district attorney is considering whether to file involuntary manslaughter charges against Turner.