Daughter asks jury to spare convicted killer's life

The daughter of convicted murderer Charles Conner told a jury Friday that her father's life is worth sparing.

"I've seen him be a positive influence in my life," 39-year-old Jennifer Turner testified during the penalty phase of Conner's trial.

The same jury that on Wednesday convicted Conner of first-degree murder for raping and beating to death with a claw hammer Beth Jardine in June 1985 is considering whether the 61-year-old should be given the death penalty.

"The person that I know is not that person," Turner said of her father.

She testified that her father was never physically or sexually abusive to her.

She said that when she was 12, he was no longer a part of her life. She did not hear from him until she was 26 and a mother.

Since then, her father has made every effort to mend their relationship, she said.

Turner testified her father is a loving and positive influence who warned her about his own mistakes and failings, including battling alcoholism.

"I love my dad. That's never going to change. Do I like what he did? Absolutely not," Turner said.

She said her children also have a healthy relationship with Conner.

A number of Conner's friends testified Friday that he has found God since a 1996 rape and kidnapping conviction, when he pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl in Arkansas.

It was because of that conviction that Conner's DNA was entered into a national database, which led investigators in the Jardine case to him.

Defense attorneys have tried to present mitigating circumstances that explain Conner's violent behavior, including that he was physically and mentally abused by his father and was the victim of incest from one of his sisters.

Conner turned to alcohol to escape those memories, defense attorneys said. When he was arrested for rape in Arkansas, Conner's blood-alcohol level was 0.49 percent, more than six times the state's legal limit for driving.

On Monday, Conner is expected to make an allocution to the jury before prosecutors and defense attorneys present their closing arguments.

The jury will then deliberate on whether Conner should receive capital punishment or be sent to prison.

Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039.