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Isaac Turnbaugh Confesses to Murdering Friend After Acquittal and Walks Free

August 3, 2011 by Brett Wilkins in Crime & Punishment with 0 Comments

A Vermont man acquitted of murdering his friend in 2004 now says he committed the crime, but he cannot be punished due to constitutional protection.

According to the Huffington Post, Isaac Turnbaugh, now 28 years old, was tried for first degree murder over the shooting death of 24-year-old Declan Lyons in 2002. The two men had been friends and coworkers in a Waitsfield restaurant. Lyons, who was engaged and expecting a child, was shot in the head with a high-powered rifle while working at the restaurant.

Police had no idea who committed the murder until Turnbaugh, high on mushrooms at a party, told six of his buddies that he shot Lyon. He also, however, claimed to be responsible for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, DC. When interrogated by police, Turnbaugh denied killing Lyons, who he called “a really good buddy.”

Despite his confession, and despite being diagnosed with serious mental illness, police were unable to establish a motive for the murder. Additionally, the FBI was unable to prove that Turnbaugh’s rifle was actually the murder weapon.

On April 6, 2004, a jury found Turnbaugh not guilty of murder.

Now he’s confessed to the killing, but there isn’t a thing police can do about it. Under the Fifth Amendment, defendants cannot be subject to “double jeopardy,” or tried twice for the same crime. “He could have turned over a video tape of him committing the murder and it wouldn’t change the fact that double jeopardy is attached,” Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell told the Huffington Post. “We had our chance. The jury acquitted him and, just in the same way OJ could confess today to his wife’s murder, it wouldn’t affect what could be done to him.”

Not everyone believes Turnbaugh’s confession. “He’s mentally ill. He made similar so-called confessions before the trial, so it’s nothing new. It’s part of his illness [and] it sounds like he’s having a relapse of some sort,” Kurt Hughes, his attorney, told the Huffington Post.

But Attorney General Sorrell does believe the confession was genuine. “He gave some details this time that were consistent with evidence in the case,” he told the Huffington Post. “Clearly, the victim had a head wound, but the police were never able to find any bullet or bullet fragments enough to do any ballistics, so we did not have evidence of any particular caliber or any particular gun. We believed it was a high-powered rifle, and we knew that Isaac Turnbaugh owned a 30-30 rifle. So, this time, he did say he shot him in the head with the 30-30.”

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