Officers disciplined for mistakes in double homicide investigation, reports show
MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – On March 6, 2015 a gruesome murder shook the region as a son was arrested, charged and pleaded guilty in the murder of his mother and father, whose bodies were recovered from Myrtle Beach’s Landmark Resort. In a WMBF News investigative report, Conor McCue uncovered police documents that show high-ranking Myrtle Beach police officials were displeased with how the investigation went down the day the victims’ bodies were found.
In fact, mistakes during the investigation led to the demotion of a veteran police sergeant. Those mistakes include the fact that officers didn’t discover they had a double-homicide on their hands until hours after the investigation started, even after finding blood-soaked mattresses.
On the night of March 6, 2015, police say Alexander Turner shot and killed his parents, Grey and Carrie Turner. He then hid their bodies, and fled the scene with his girlfriend, Chelsi Griffin, who is also charged with the murders.
Turner tried to extend the stay for his parents’ room twice, but employees at the Landmark Resort wouldn’t allow it because his name wasn’t on the room.
When Landmark Resort employees checked on the room, they called police because of what they found.
The first call for an officer to head to the Landmark came in to Private First Class Brian Welch at around 2:30 in the afternoon. But Officer Welch got caught up on another call, so Private First Class George Johnson responded instead.
Documents show the hotel’s General Manager told Officer Johnson that housekeeping discovered blood stains on the mattress in room 1208. Officer Johnson and the GM went upstairs to go through the room.
In one disciplinary report, the GM described Officer Johnson’s search of the room as “poking around,” making the comment that “it wasn’t really a search.” He estimated Johnson “spent about five minutes looking.”
The GM said that at one point Johnson commented on how much blood was on the mattress, later probing around a hole located near the blood stains. Johnson later strongly denied the claim to his ranking officers.
The reports outline that Officer Johnson believed there could have been another explanation for the blood stains - something medical - because of items he saw on the counter. He also suggested the stains could have been red wine in a later phone call with his supervisor.
The GM said Officer Johnson told him to call police if the guests staying in that room showed up, then left the hotel room.
At that point, officers had not found the victims’ bodies.
Next, Officer Johnson met with the officer first dispatched to the scene, Officer Brian Welch, and told him about the blood stains. At that point, Officer Welch contacted his supervisor, Sergeant Leonard Sloan, at the station.
A recommendation for disciplinary action filed March 13 gives a better idea of what happened next.
That report says in a phone call, Officer Welch told Sgt. Sloan everything he’d learned. Sergeant Sloan later admitted that he never asked any follow up questions, and that he told Officer Welch to complete a report and follow up with the hotel later.
Sergeant Sloan told ranking officers that Officer Welch, “did not seem concerned with the blood stains.”
Later on, Sgt. Sloan found out Officer Welch had never actually been in the hotel room. He sent Officer Welch back for another search, but there was an issue with that search too. In one report, Officer Welch’s superior says he, “conducted a search of the room without a search warrant,” which is against department protocol.
Reports show it wasn’t until even later that another officer actually found the bodies of Carrie and Grey Turner underneath the bedframe. Department records show that, too, was done without a search warrant, something leaders pointed out was “surely to be questioned at trial.”
The missteps didn’t go unnoticed. Less than two weeks later, the police department’s chain of command filed reports and even disciplined one officer involved.
In a report given to Police Chief Warren Gall, each officer’s behavior during the investigation was evaluated.
The efforts of Officer Johnson, the first officer to go in the room, were summed up in three words: “Johnson messed up.” Johnson’s supervisor recommended a written reprimand and a conversation about how he failed to do the job.
The report next addressed Officer Welch, saying he also failed to do his job. The more than ten-year veteran also received a written reprimand and a sit-down with supervisors.
Sergeant Leonard Sloan did not get off as easily. He was the supervisor responsible for the call that night, and even told ranking officers he believed he was, “going to be the scapegoat in this incident and take the fall for everything.”
One ranking officer put Sgt. Sloan’s failure to ask questions or make proper decisions in an e-mail to Chief Gall. “He failed to do the basic job as a supervisor and that is to ask questions,” the e-mail said. "Had he done so, would the victims have been saved, no they would not have. But, the delay in finding the victims by hours would certainly have not occurred either.”
WMBF News also found that at the time of the incident, Sgt. Sloan was already on probation for a previous offense. Documents show that in October of 2014, Sgt. Sloan had a motel maintenance worker let him into a room to recover something inside, something against protocol. Sloan also has a history of discipline taken against him.
This time around, Chief Gall recommended Sgt. Sloan no longer supervise, and that he be demoted. The more than 20-year veteran now works at a lower rank and salary.
WMBF News requested an interview with Myrtle Beach police about the investigation, and actions taken since. Chief Gall declined the request, telling WMBF News, through a spokesperson, that the department doesn’t comment on personnel issues.
A representative for Landmark Resort provided the following statement: "The Myrtle Beach Police Department handled themselves with the utmost professionalism and proper discretion throughout the investigation of this terrible tragedy. The police department made it as easy as possible for our staff to cooperate with them during a difficult time in order to bring resolution to the situation. We were pleased with the combined efforts of the Myrtle Beach Police Department and the Horry County Police Department in arresting the suspects as promptly as they did."