DA won’t seek death penalty in Malaya Heun murder
Rowan County District Attorney Brandy Cook said Friday morning she would not seek the death penalty against John Travis Turner or Alisha Carlisle, who have been charged with the January murder of 15-month-old Malaya Heun, Carlisle’s niece.
Turner, 30, was shackled and wearing a county-issued orange jumpsuit when he appeared in Superior Court with his attorney for a Rule-24 hearing, which determines whether the state will proceed as a capital case.
Carlisle — Turner’s girlfriend and the 20-year-old sister of Christy Heun, Malaya’s mother — had already had a similar hearing.
Judge Christopher Bragg, of Union County, explained to Turner that, if convicted of first-degree murder, he could be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Kannapolis investigators charged the pair June 2 with first-degree murder, felony abuse inflicting serious injury and assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury. Officials say the toddler suffered repeated physical abuse at the hands of her aunt and Turner.
Investigators believed the child was assaulted Jan. 19 at her family’s apartment at 2508 Running Brook Drive in the Rowan County portion of Kannapolis. A search warrant said Carlisle and Turner were the only two people taking care of the toddler.
Christy Heun told investigators she received a call at work from her sister, Alisha, saying she needed to return home because something was wrong with Malaya. The toddler was taken to the hospital in a private vehicle. She died Jan. 21.
An autopsy found Malaya had several broken ribs, some of which had already healed. She had bruises on her face, head and body, a fractured clavicle and torn intestines. The report said the broken collarbone “would have been obvious and painful,” and would have limited the use of her right arm.
The injuries were consistent with Battered Child Syndrome, the autopsy said. Authorities said they believe Malaya had suffered physical abuse for at least a month.
Turner and Carlisle remain in the Rowan County Detention Center under no bond.
During a June hearing, District Court Judge Charlie Brown appointed Landis attorney Rick Locklear to represent Turner and Salisbury attorney Doug Smith to represent Carlisle.