“It’s just a total sense of relief”; Rochester man found guilty of attempted murder

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(ABC 6 News) – Not even two hours after closing arguments from attorneys Tuesday, a Rochester jury came to a decision in the case of Phillip Turner, finding him guilty on all four charges.

When the guilty verdict was read, the only sound in the packed courtroom was from Riedel’s mother Karen, sobbing, as Turner was found guilty of all four charges, including the attempted murder of her daughter.

Turner, 35, was also charged with 1st and 2nd degree assault as well as possession of a firearm by an ineligible person the Christmas Eve shooting.

RELATED: Rochester man charged in Christmas Eve shooting to stand trial in April

Karen Riedel sat through a heart-wrenching week-long trial, having to relive her daughter Jessica’s bloody and tragic last Christmas.

“Seeing pictures [during the trial] was the hardest for me, seeing the video of them [Turner and Jessica] walking into the apartment because that is the last time anybody saw her normal,” Karen said.

Turner showed no emotion throughout the trial, even when taking the witness stand in his own defense and recounting the events of Dec. 24, 2022.

Turner and his defense team tried to convince the jury that Jessica shot herself in the head, trying to take her own life that night while her two children were in the apartment.

Throughout the trial, Turner claimed that the only reason he had lied when he was first questioned and never called 911 after the shooting was because he did not think anyone would believe him.

As he took the stand, he said he was afraid of being discriminated against saying, “I’m a black man, in a white town, with a white woman. I was terrified of not being believed.”

The jury though, did not buy it.

During closing arguments, prosecutor Eric Woodford said that Turner has been lying since the start.

“Turner is very comfortable with lying and is an unabashed teller of untruths,” Woodford told the jury. “You shouldn’t believe a word of his on the witness stand. Even in his self-serving tale, Turner admitted to you that he lied on purpose to the police for about 2 and a half hours minimum on purpose.”

Amanda Lindberg, Turner’s defense attorney, said that the reason he spent hours denying any memory of what happened to Jessica was because he was afraid of being discriminated against.

Lindberg told the jury a different version of events. She said that that Christmas Eve night Jessica grabbed Turner’s pistol from his waistband. She then alleged that Jessica pointed it at him, then pointed it at herself. Lindberg said Turner, “reached to get the gun, but Jessica flinched and the gun went off.”

Woodford said this story was extremely unlikely due to the fact that Jessica was “very right-hand dominant,” and it would have been near impossible for her to have used the gun with her dominant hand and shoot herself in the back of the head on the left side.

Forensic evidence of the bullet did not help either parties, as one Mayo Clinic doctor testified that, the bullet entered the left hemisphere of her skull and continued at a non-linear angle with no exit wound.

One of Woodford’s main closing points to the jury was the fact that if Jessica wanted to kill herself, she would not have made holiday preparations.

“Ms. Riedel’s favorite holiday is Christmas. She had plans with her family both days and she spent the previous night wrapping presents for her children,” Woodford said. “Her kids were also with her in the apartment when she was shot.”

Woodford also pointed out that if Riedel had shot herself, Turner would not have taken the gun with him and ran saying it “demonstrates consciousness of guilt.”

Travis Melland, with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, told the jury that when he tested the two bullets found at the scene, they matched Turners .380 Remington pistol.

Turner admitted to taking the gun from the scene and trying to “distance himself from it” by disposing of it in a snow bank the following day before he was arrested by police.

“The only reason he did all of that was to protect himself,” Woodford said.

During the closing arguments Tuesday, Woodford compared the Christmas celebrations of Jessica and Turner.

Woodford said that while Riedel was face-down bleeding on her bedroom floor, Turner admitted to going home to his estranged girlfriends house and celebrating Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.

“That tells you who pulled the trigger that day. It was Phillip Turner,” Woodford said. “He also did not tell a soul about what had happened to Ms. Riedel.”

Lindberg did her best to change the jury’s mind in her closing arguments as she said this case was about tragedy, poor decision-making and assumptions.

“This is not a black and white case,” Lindberg said. “If you lay awake tonight thinking about what to do, that’s reasonable doubt and find him not guilty.”

In Woodfords rebuttal he made lasting points with the jury, although the defense tried to object. The judge overruled the objection.

“These are not unwarranted assumptions, these are reasonable depictions of what evidence has led you to believe,” Woodford said.

As Turner was read the four guilty verdicts, he finally displayed emotion as he put his head in his hands and sat down.

“It’s just a total sense of relief, gratefulness, that it’s finally coming to an end and that we got the justice for Jessica that she deserved,” Karen said. “I don’t think anything’s gonna be total justice, but the criminal justice system did their job and I have to be grateful for that and knowing that he can’t hurt anyone else again.”

While Karen is grateful for each day she spends with Jessica, her life will never be the same.

In Karen’s testimony during the trial, she said her daughter now has a mental state compared to that of a 5-year-old.

The father of Jessica’s children, Jonathan Berg, says their children, 5-year-old Christian and 3-year-old Sophie, are doing the best that they can.

“It has been a struggle but they are starting to get better day-to-day. It is hard for them not having mom there,” Berg said during an interview. “Just love your loved ones. You never know what’s going to happen.”

While it was a seemingly slam-dunk case for the state, Woodford says the case was much more than just a win for his professional career.

“For her two children, though they don’t know what’s happening with this right now, someday they will. For her mother and all of those people that are close to her, we are just happy for them,” Woodford said.

Turner will receive his sentence on Nov. 8, 2023, at 10:30 a.m.

For a link to Jessica’s GoFundMe page, click here.