ANDERSON — A district judge has appointed the brother-in-law of slain Navasota community leader Lonnie Turner to oversee the Jones Funeral Home owner’s estate in the first of what are expected to be many hearings.
Judge Jerry Sandel on Thursday approved the appointment of David Burrell as temporary administrator of the Turner estate after attorneys for Turner’s son and daughter agreed to the proposal.
Burrell is the brother of Pattie Turner, the funeral home owner’s late wife.
“He hasn’t been partisan in this thing and everyone thought he could be fair,” said Steven Haley, the Brenham attorney representing Turner’s daughter, Macheryl Armstrong. “His objectivity is what everybody agreed to.”
Burrell, an employee with the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs who lives in Austin, will have control of Turner’s properties and assets for up to 180 days.
Haley and attorneys for Lonnie Turner Jr., Turner’s son, agreed to put a freeze on bank accounts tied to the Jones Funeral Homes in Navasota and Caldwell.
Although Turner Jr. will continue to operate the funeral homes, he only will have access to their operating accounts, Haley said. An account with $92,000 at the Bank of Navasota and a $50,000 acount at the Central Bank in Caldwell cannot be touched until the estate dispute is settled, said R.J. Lacina, one of Turner Jr.’s attorneys.
Turner Jr. and about a dozen members of the Turner family attended the hearing Thursday. Armstrong, Turner Jr.’s half-sister who lives in Angleton, was not at the hearing.
A fixture in Grimes County, Lonnie Turner Sr. was shot in the abdomen Nov. 2 inside his Navasota home. Police charged longtime family friend James David White, 18, several months ago in the killing, but a recent lawsuit filed by Armstrong accuses Turner Jr. of being involved in a “murder-for-hire criminal scheme” surrounding their father’s death.
There have been no court dates set yet in that case.
The wrongful-death lawsuit was filed to keep Turner Jr., who has controlled his father’s business, assets and properties since the death, from inheriting the estate and collecting $100,000 in life insurance benefits.
Joe Turner, the Austin attorney who represents Turner Jr., would not comment directly about the lawsuit or estate hearings.
Turner, who is not related to Turner Jr., said Armstrong’s lawsuit and the comments of law enforcement investigating the Turner death have shrouded his client with unwarranted publicity in recent months.
“This case should not be tried in the press,” Turner said.
Haley, Armstrong’s attorney, said the purpose of Thursday’s hearing was to get Turner Jr. away from the Turner estate. At one point during the hearing, Haley requested that it be put in writing that a Dec. 13 motion for temporary adminstration filed by Turner Jr. be stricken from the estate because he failed to put up the necessary $50,000 bond.
“What we were trying to do today is get this thing under control, the assets and the businesses, because up until now Mr. Turner Jr. has been in control,” Haley said. “Our thought is that he’s hardly the neutral party that one would desire.”
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