Stepfather Speaks Out About Missing Teen

Shocking discovery leads to new questions about stepdaughter's disappearance.

ByJohn Quinones and Shana Druckerman
August 12, 2009, 11:14 AM

PHOENIX, Aug. 12, 2009— -- In December 2008, Phoenix Police detectives went looking for clues in the disappearance of Alissa Turney inside the home of her stepfather, Mike Turney. Their hope was to find video and audio tapes from Turney's extensive surveillance system that might reveal what happened to the 17-year-old girl on the last day she was seen alive in May 2001.

"There were video cameras set up that covered the door, the car port area, pretty clearly and also there was a video camera inside of the main thoroughfare through the house," said Det. Stuart Somershoe, one of two detectives who were tasked with investigating the seven-year-long mystery.

If you have information that might help solve the mystery of what happened to Alissa Turney, please contact the Phoenix Police Department on their Web site, or by phone 1-480-WITNESS, 1-480-948-6377.

They say they were looking for evidence of Alissa leaving the house if she really did run away and a tape of the phone call her stepfather claimed she made to him a week after she allegedly left.

Alissa disappeared on the last day of her junior year at Paradise Valley High School. Mike Turney told police he had picked Alissa up early from school, taken her to lunch and then dropped her off at home. When he returned, Turney said that he found a note in her bedroom, which said she was running away to California. Aside from a brief phone call to her stepfather, Alissa has not been heard from since.

But Turney's extensive home surveillance system, stories from Alissa's friends about his almost obsessive control of her life and allegations of sexual abuse, became part of a growing list of strange details about Alissa's home life, which prompted detectives to look closer at her stepfather. The Phoenix Police Department considers Turney to be an "investigative lead" in her disappearance.

A few hours into the search for the surveillance tapes and Alissa's original runaway note, investigators uncovered several homemade pipe bombs filled with gunpowder and roofing nails around the Turney home.

The bomb squad was called and the neighborhood was evacuated. Investigators say they removed 26 homemade bombs, which they say was the largest explosive seizure in Arizona history. They say they also found two unregistered silencers, as well as 19 registered high-caliber assault-style firearms. Mike Turney was arrested for the pipe bombs and silencers, and turned over to federal agencies.

"When they took him into custody, Mike had two pistols on his person. He had seven magazines filled with ammo. He had a knife. He had a recording device," Somershoe told ABC News.

CLICK HERE to read more about Alissa's disappearance and see photos of Alissa through the years.

Turney Blames Local Union for Alissa's Disappearance

Alissa's mother, Barbara Strahm, died of cancer when she was 8 years old. Her mother had married Turney when she was 3 and Turney officially adopted Alissa and all of Barbara's children. As she grew older, Turney said he and Alissa experienced the normal parent-child friction. But in interviews with police, Alissa's friends described a bizarre home life, one in which Turney became controlling and allegations of sexual abuse emerged.

Investigators say that as they focused in on Turney, he exhibited bizarre signs of paranoia and hostility. And during the search of his home, they say they uncovered a 98-page document written by Mike Turney in which he blames a local union for Alissa's disappearance.

Turney had worked as an electrician in the 1980s and said he complained about workplace conditions. He had previously told police that the union had a grudge against him and that they kidnapped Alissa and killed her to punish him. In his writings, Turney indicated he wanted to avenge Alissa's death by attacking the union hall.

"The idea that he would have taken all of those explosives and prepared to do something that might have been horrendous was something that wasn't in anybody's mind as we were looking for a person who was missing," Sgt. Andy Hill of the Phoenix Police Department told ABC News. "So I think we are very fortunate that we were able to come across this person before he was able to carry out something that would have hurt a lot of people."

The authorities say they believe Turney's attack was imminent. "We served that search warrant on Dec. 11," said Det. William Andersen. "The next meeting for that union hall was the 15th."

In his only interview to date, Mike Turney told ABC News that the bombs were not his and that they were planted in his home by police. He did admit that he was planning to take his own life to bring attention to Alissa's case.

As for the numerous recordings from video surveillance cameras within his home, Turney told ABC that those cameras were for the protection of his home. He denied allegations made by friends of his teenage stepdaughter involving sexual abuse.

"They have no proof whatsoever of anything other than rumors and innuendos and lies," Turney said, "There's only two people that can confirm whether I did it, and one is me, and the other is Alissa. Alissa's not here and I'm sitting here and all I can say until hell freezes over, I didn't do a damned thing to my daughter."

Is Union Plot Part of Elaborate Eight-Year Cover Up?

But Mike Turney's arrest for the bombs and discovery of his violent plans for attacking the union has brought speculation and big questions about his stepdaughter's disappearance. Detectives say they wonder if Turney's writings and stories about the union were fabricated as part of an elaborate eight-year-long cover up of Alissa's disappearance.

"I have a lot of questions for Mike Turney. And I have suspicions," Andersen told ABC. "There is behavior that doesn't make sense. And I believe he has information that would help us in this investigation."

Investigators say Mike Turney has refused to sit down with them for a police interview. Prior to his arrest, he did communicate with police through fax, e-mail and phone calls. Turney says he provided them with documents and recordings that they asked for and would have visited them for a formal recorded interview if the detectives had set a time and place.

During his interview with ABC News, Turney said he would agree to a visit with the detectives to discuss Alissa's case at the prison where he is being held. But in a phone call with detectives weeks later, they say, he refused.

As for finding Alissa after so long, Turney told ABC News, "It's been eight years. It bears very heavy on my conscience. I blame myself. There's no other parent to look around. There's nobody else to blame but me. If your kid runs away, you can sit around pointing fingers all you want to. There's nowhere else to look but yourself. So that burden lies with me, and will until the day I die. There is a hope in the back of my mind. It's very bleak, but I do hope that she's still alive."

Detectives Less Optimistic Alleged Runaway Is Alive

Detectives were less optimistic about Alissa, who would now be 25, turning up.

"It would be great if she does. That would be the best ending to the story," said Somershoe. "I think something very bad happened to Alissa shortly after she was taken out of school, because there is no trail after that. She didn't touch her money, she didn't get any new identification issued to her. She basically disappeared."

Andersen agreed. "I don't see that this 17-year-old girl would be, number one, cold blooded enough to cut off all ties with everybody she has ever known in her life. And at the same time, to be ingenious enough to reinvent herself, to move on with her life ... I just don't think that she had that in her."

Mike Turney is currently in federal custody. He was recently indicted on federal charges of unlawful possession of unregistered destructive devices, unlawful possession of unregistered silencers and attempt to damage or destroy a building by fire or explosives. He could face up to 25 years in prison and may face trial as early as this fall. Turney has not been charged with anything related to Alissa's disappearance.

"The last time I saw my daughter, she was alive. That is the absolute truth," Turney told ABC News. "She called me one week later. That's the last time I heard from her. As far as doing something to my daughter, could I do anything like that to her? Not in a million years."

The Phoenix Police Department is still investigating the case and considers Turney to be an "investigative lead."

If you have information that might help solve the mystery of what happened to Alissa Turney, please contact the Phoenix Police Department on their Web site, or by phone 1-480-WITNESS, 1-480-948-6377.

Click here to read ABC News' full interview with Michael Turney.

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