Kenneth Allan Turner was sentenced to 12 years confinement and eight years probation after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault in the stabbing death of Benjamin O’Neal.
Turner entered the plea during a hearing in Liberty County Superior Court Monday.
Turner originally faced two murder charges, aggravated assault and possession of a knife during the commission of a felony for the stabbing that occurred at the Cay Creek Wetlands Interpretive Center in Midway in July 2011.
Turner, 28, said he was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder at the time. The state conceded he suffered from the condition after a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Turner testified he went to Cay Creek that morning for some light exercise when he walked by O’Neal who was sitting on the boardwalk.
“I walked down to the end of the boardwalk to where the dock is and I saw a man’s bicycle there…it was strange to see a bicycle there…I was paranoid,” Tuner said. “As I walked back I walked past him…I was taking in the nature, trying to calm down…I heard a gunshot and it startled me…I was paranoid, didn’t know what was happening and my knee hurt real bad. I thought he had shot me or set a trap on me.”
Turner said he walked back toward O’Neal and asked him if he carried a gun or if he set a trap. He said they argued and O’Neal came at him with a knife, stabbing at him at least three times. Turner was stabbed once on his left side.
“I was able to reach over and take the knife and when I woke up he was on the ground maybe 15 yards from where I was and he was full of blood,” Turner said.
Turner called 9-1-1.
O’Neal later died at Liberty Regional Medical Center from the injuries. The autopsy revealed he had been stabbed 43 times.
Liberty County Superior Court Judge Robert Russell accepted the conditions of the negotiated plea. Turner pled guilty to aggravated assault. The murder charges were reduced to involuntary manslaughter and the other charges dismissed under the agreement.
O’Neal was one of 13 siblings. Many of his family were in court and some took the stand to speak on the family’s behalf.
Willie May Jacobs, one of O’Neal’s four sisters, said the family misses him every day.
“The pain is still great when we think of how our brother was brutally stabbed,” she said. “I am sure he attempted to flee and pleaded for his life to no avail. He was a gentle and nurturing soul who loved to fish, hunt, plant crops and even
give his crops away to
anybody that asked for it.”
O’Neal cared for his nieces and nephews and his mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s.
His other sister, Mary Wells, had a direct message for Turner.
“My whole world turned upside down. He was murdered and with no remorse. ... God has the last say-so because my brother was one of God’s children, and I hope this murderer will rot in jail,” Wells said.