Mother Charged With Murder In Track Star's Death Shilie Turner Was Killed At Home, Police Say

Posted: March 08, 1993

Police arrested Shilie Turner's mother yesterday and charged her with killing the West Philadelphia track star in their Overbrook home.

Police sources said Vivian King, 42, confessed to investigators that she had fatally shot her 17-year-old daughter, whose body was found in Fairmount Park on Feb. 20, 33 days after her mother had reported her missing.

"I was out of my mind," the sources quoted King as telling investigators. ''I'm sorry. I need help."

Turner was shot six times at close range.

King was charged with murder, possession of an instrument of crime and weapons violations in a 1 p.m. arraignment yesterday. She wore a purple, blue and white jogging suit, a gray hat and handcuffs.

During her arraignment, King stared at the floor and wept. She was held without bail and remanded to the Detention Center. A preliminary hearing is set for March 17 in Room 675 of City Hall.

Detectives adamantly denied rumors spreading throughout the city and inside the Police Administration Building that another arrest was expected in the case.

King's arrest was a shocking twist to a story that began as a missing-child report and captivated people in the city and beyond. Her killing ended her

dream of running her way from the inner city to the Olympics.

King, her husband, Clarence Jones, and their 10-year-old daughter went to police headquarters, or Roundhouse, about noon Saturday to talk to homicide detectives after King said she was concerned about rampant rumors that she was responsible for Turner's death. At 4:15 a.m. yesterday, she was arrested inside the Roundhouse.

Her husband, who contracts with The Inquirer to sell newspapers, left and did his job.

Investigators said two guns were recovered from the family house, but according to sources, neither was the murder weapon, believed to be a .38- caliber handgun. That was still missing. King's white Chevrolet was also confiscated as part of the investigation.

According to sources, King said she had killed her daughter at the park, but investigators said she was shot inside the family's rowhouse in the 1700 block of North Edgewood Street. They said the shooting occurred during an argument early on Jan. 18, the day King reported her daughter missing.

King was angry at her daughter for coming in late, sources said, and lashed out at her for hanging out with the wrong people. Turner, a William Penn High School senior, was last seen about 2 a.m. getting off a bus at 60th Street and Girard Avenue, six blocks from her home.

Investigators declined to say where in the house they believed the shooting occurred. They refused to release other details. However, sources said a search of the home yesterday turned up bullet holes in the kitchen ceiling and walls. Some bullets were recovered and will be compared to the ones taken from Turner's body.

Turner's stepfather had left for work by the time she returned home about 3 a.m. on Jan. 18, sources said, and her younger sister was asleep upstairs. The youngster reported hearing something but said she was not sure what.

Before her death, it looked as if Turner, an average student, was running her way to a better life. She had hopes of receiving a full college scholarship and dreams of reaching the Olympics. The head track coach at Clemson University, in which Turner had expressed interest, put her among the top five senior female runners in the country. Three days before her disappearance, she set a regional record for the 800 meters.

Turner was dedicated. She started running when she was 7 and never quit. In 1985, when fourth-graders at William B. Hanna School in West Philadelphia wrote essays on the foods they disliked, one child's words stood out among the denunciations of broccoli and lima beans. As reported in the Philadelphia Daily News, Shilie wrote:

"I dislike candy, potato chips, cake, ice cream and other sweets because they will make me fat and chubby. Too much body fat will slow down my speed and I will get too tired when I am running on the track team."

Shilie inspired others to similar dedication. More than one girlfriend has spoken of how she helped bolster their strength in tough times, including one who said Turner encouraged her to start running competitively again after she had a baby.

"What set her apart was that she was not just a special runner, but a special kid, period," her track coach, Tim Hickey, said after her body was found. "She was special to everybody."

She was a bright star against a bleak urban backdrop, a child who reached deep inside herself and came up with the strength to look hopefully into the future.

When she disappeared, the community raged against the violence of the streets that crisscross her neighborhood, and average citizens, along with political and community leaders, screamed out against the unfairness of it all. At the forefront of the outrage was her mother.

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