Man suspected in Spencer arson turns himself in

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 27, 2012

By Shavonne Potts
SPENCER — A man accused of setting fire to his Steeplechase Trail home on Friday turned himself in Monday morning and was released on bond a couple of hours later.
Thomas Bernard Turner, 43, whose address is listed on an arrest warrant as Briarwood Lake Drive, Salisbury, surrendered to authorities accompanied by his attorney, Spencer Police Chief Michael James said.
“He met us at the magistrate’s office and was very cooperative,” James said.
Turner was charged with first-degree arson and assault with a deadly weapon. He was placed in the Rowan County Detention Center around 10:30 a.m. Monday under $50,000 bond; he made bond a few hours later and was released.
Turner is accused of setting the home at 430 Steeplechase Trail on fire following a domestic dispute. He did not return a message left Monday at a telephone number listed on an arrest warrant.
Sheena Hasty, Turner’s estranged wife, and he began divorce proceedings in September after their marriage turned violent. Hasty said Turner poured gasoline on her and threatened to set her on fire.
Despite their tumultuous relationship, Hasty said she let Turner return to the home they had shared because he had nowhere else to go. She made him leave after another dispute Thursday.
Turner returned with daughter Lakesha Cowan and cousin Tremaine Parks to the Steeplechase Trail home on Friday, law enforcement records say.
Hasty told the Post that her husband used a ladder to climb into the home through an upstairs window Friday afternoon.
A court affidavit police filed to obtain arrest warrants said officers were responding to a domestic dispute call and were told shots had been fired in the home.
Officers found the home in flames and called the Fire Department. They also found Joseph Walker, Hasty’s son, and his friend Anwar Jackson standing on the back deck.
Based on witness accounts and statements from Jackson and Walker, court documents say, investigators determined that Turner arrived at the home and, after not being able to get in through the front door, pulled a ladder to the side of the house and gained access through a window.
Walker told authorities that Turner, gun in hand, backed him down the stairs and unlocked the front door to let his daughter inside.
Walker said Turner began firing random shots into various appliances and throughout the home.
Walker said he and friend Jackson retreated to a bathroom near the garage entrance. Turner walked by the bathroom, pointed the gun at them, and fired into a wall near the bathroom door, the affidavit said.
Turner took an English bulldog named Jade from the garage and left.
As he was examining damage, Walker saw a fire in his mother’s closet in the master bedroom. He and Jackson tried to extinguish the fire, but were unsuccessful.
Authorities obtained warrants for Turner on Sunday.
Hasty said James, the Spencer police chief, called to inform her Turner had turned himself in. She felt safer when she knew Turner was in jail, but those feelings faded when she realized he’d posted his bond and was released.
“I went to automatic panic mode when I heard the bond amount,” she said Monday.
Hasty said she has made plans to leave the county.
“I don’t feel safe staying here,” she said.
The N.C. State Bureau of Investigation has aided the Spencer Police Department in the investigation and a detective said Sunday more charges were likely. No additional charges had been filed Monday afternoon.
“As the investigation continues we will make that determination after consulting with the DA whether additional charges would be appropriate or not,” James said.
Court records indicate Turner and Hasty had a tumultuous relationship.
In 2011 both Hasty and Turner were charged with misdemeanor assault by pointing a gun. In each incident, the case was dismissed when neither party testified against the other.
Hasty recounts in court documents waking up with Turner pointing a handgun in her face. She said the handgun belonged to her.
According to warrants, investigators seized various items at the Steeplechase Trail home, including samples of flour at the origin of the fire, a black cooking pot, a desktop computer, multiple shell casings, a flatscreen television and bullet found behind the refrigerator.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.