A 65-year-old North Little Rock used-car dealer whom prosecutors called a "predator" was sentenced to 25 years in prison Friday for raping a 13-year-old girl he lured to his shop with phony promises of launching her modeling career.
The sentence is the minimum punishment for rape, a Class Y felony, when the victim is younger than 14. Clarence Eugene "Beau" Turnbo will have to serve at least 17½ years, meaning he will be 82 before he can apply for parole.
The girl was "lured" into an elaborately planned trap that began with Turnbo posting an ad on Craigslist looking for models, prosecutors said.
"This was an elaborate, orchestrated ruse," deputy prosecutor Melissa Brown said in her closing remarks. "It took time. It took a lot of effort."
Turnbo did not testify during the three-day trial before Pulaski County Circuit Judge Leon Johnson, and his attorney, Lee Short, acknowledged that Turnbo did have sexual contact with the girl by having her manually stimulate him during their December 2017 encounter.
But that's as far as things went, Short said. Turnbo did nothing to the girl, who is now 16, that would constitute rape, Short told the seven women and five men of the jury. The attorney said the girl had exaggerated and lied about what went on between her and Turnbo to keep her family from finding out that she had agreed to have sex with him for money.
Short claimed the girl's lies began with her first meeting with North Little Rock investigators immediately after the liaison at Turnbo's car shop and home on East Broadway Street. She was adding details to her story as recently as a week before trial, Short said, telling jurors that prosecutors were deliberately misleading them about what the girl had been up to.
"Why are they purposely misleading you? She's not only able to lie to law enforcement but she's able to convince them she's telling the truth," he said. "If she's raped at a modeling job, she's the victim. But if she says, 'I came here for money' ... she's going to have to face her family."
Short said a text message the girl sent just before their meeting revealed her true intentions: "I'm wearing sweats ... for easy access."
Evidence of rape included Turnbo's DNA found in the girl's vagina and rear end and on her stomach, but the text message bolstered the girl's accusations because it showed that Turnbo had been expecting to have sex with her, deputy prosecutors Anna Catherine Cargile and Brown told the jurors.
The girl responded to the ad, and sheand her mother met with Turnbo about a month before the rape, prosecutors said. Turnbo showed them a contract, claimed to have modeling connections and gave them $100.
The girl dreamed of being a model. Her family was having financial difficulties, and she hoped that, through Turnbo, she'd be able to earn money to contribute to the household, prosecutors said.
The December 2017 meeting was supposed to be a photo shoot. The girl testified she was dropped off at Turnbo's and that he took her into a bedroom in the shop. She said she told Turnbo that she changed her mind about having sex with him after he took his pants off but that he persuaded her into manual and oral sex as well as copulation.
She said they were interrupted by Turnbo's ex-wife, who angrily chastised him about hiding a girl in his bedroom. The police were alerted a short time later. The text message, taken from the defendant's phone, was provided by Turnbo's ex, Cynthia "Cindy" Turnbo, 52.
Prosecutors rested their case by playing excerpts from five phone calls between Turnbo and his ex-wife, recorded while he was in jail after his January 2018 arrest. On the recordings, Turnbo can be heard saying he had made a "stupid" mistake, that he had had a naked girl in his bed and was worried about being labeled a child molester.
Friday's verdict does not end Turnbo's legal problems. He's also facing three counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm, stemming from a police investigation into a complaint by his former secretary that he intimidated her into posing for "questionable" photographs in October 2016.
The woman told police that shortly after hiring her, he demanded she "play" model while he took photographs. The woman said she'd answered a Craigslist job ad that Turnbo had posted and that he required her to sign a nondisclosure form.
When she declined to pose for pictures, Turnbo pulled out a gun and said, "We are going to play model," court filings show. She said she complied and that Turnbo put his hands on her while directing her how to pose, according to an arrest report.
Turnbo has prior convictions from the 1970s for grand larceny, residential burglary and escape.
Metro on 01/11/2020