Midland History: The Unforgettable Murder in the Museum of the Southwest
Every year around Halloween means the anniversary of what is still one of the most shocking murders in Midland history, the murder of Juliette Turner at the Turner Mansion, which is now the Museum of the Southwest.
Around 4:12 am on the morning of October 29, 1963, a neighbor calls the police after hearing screams in the direction of the Turner Mansion. The police patrolled the area till daylight but found nothing suspicious in the area.
Mrs. Turner (pictured above) had been the one screaming from the balcony of her home when James Lee Marion pulled her back into the bedroom and bludgeoned her with a jammed pistol and his fists, killing the 66-year-old Midland socialite.
Marion then fell asleep in an unknown part of the mansion after the murder of Mrs. Turner.
The maid arrived right around her usual time of 8 am that morning and called the daughter, Dorothy Turner-Scharbauer, and son-in-law, saying she saw muddy tracks inside the home and footprints in the mud outside the house and thought the home had been broken into.
Upon arriving at the home, Dorothy and her husband, Clarence Scharbauer, Jr., instructed a neighbor to call the sheriff.
Juliette Turner was found in her bedroom bludgeoned to death with a .38 automatic pistol found next to her body and the door was determined to have been beaten in with a crowbar.
Marion had fallen asleep somewhere in the house after the murder and had been awakened by the commotion that was going on.
While trying to flee the house, Marion (pictured above) ran into Dorothy in the library and asked if she lived there. She said "no," and he hit her over the head with the pistol and knocked her out.
Clarence Scharbauer, Jr., Sheriff "Big" Ed Darnell, and a deputy came back into the house, where they ran into Marion, who held them at gunpoint till he could maneuver his way out the front door and make his escape.
The three men gave chase and lost Marion, but police found him 4 hours later in the attic of a small business nearby. He was immediately arrested, and on him, they found $111 in his pockets and Mrs. Turner's purse. Also found on the floor of the business in the room below the entrance to the attic was an identification holder with Juliette Turner's picture in it.
James Lee Marion was convicted in a Lubbock court in 1964 of the murder of Juliette Turner and sentenced to death in the electric chair. His trial was moved to Lubbock because of the massive media coverage of the murder in Midland/Odessa, which lawyers argued would not produce an unbiased jury.
His sentence was later downgraded to life in prison, and while in prison, he became a minister and was several years later released on parole.
Growing up in Midland, the story of the murder of Juliette Turner was known by all for years following the murder, especially those who visited the Museum of the Southwest on school trips like myself.
The part of the museum where the murder occurred is not accessible to the public to this day, almost 60 years later.