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Second man sentenced in house party sex assault

Turner
Bower
Beierwalter

Standing in his gray suit, Troy Turner turned to his victim in the front row of the Allen County Superior Courtroom on Wednesday and apologized.

“What happened that night is not who I am,” he said, struggling to hold back tears, before he was sentenced to a year behind bars. “I’m trying to make things as right as I can, as much as I can…I take pride in helping people. It kills me that I allowed that to happen.”

Turner’s long-form apology stood in stark relief to that of one of the other two men convicted in the sexual assault of a woman at an alcohol-fueled house party in October 2011.

Last week, when Austin Bower was sentenced, he spoke only five words, to no one in particular – “I apologize for my actions.” Judge John Surbeck gave Bower 10 years in prison, with six to serve behind bars and four suspended, to be spent on probation. Bower, 23, pleaded guilty in April to rape.

Awaiting sentencing now is Alex Beierwalter, who, along with Bower, was a University of Saint Francis football player. Turner had walked on briefly for the school’s junior varsity basketball team. All three men left the school in 2011.

Beierwalter, 23, pleaded guilty in January to criminal deviate conduct. He will be sentenced Friday.

Originally charged with rape, Turner, 23, was the first to admit his role – pleading guilty to a much less serious charge of sexual battery and agreeing to testify against Beierwalter and Bower.

Silent during Bower’s hearing last week, the victim offered a brief statement during Wednesday’s hearing.

A small woman, with dark hair and a quiet voice, she told Turner his actions affected her and her family greatly.

“I want him to sit in jail, as any rapist would,” she said.

According to court documents, police were called to the home in the 2000 block of Neuhaus Drive.

When they arrived, they found the woman hiding in the bathroom. Blood and a used condom were in the tub. Bower’s DNA was later found on the condom.

She told police she had gone to the party with some friends, consumed “a lot” of vodka and fell ill. Her friends left her in the care of Turner, according to statements Wednesday.

According to statements during the hearing, there were two distinct incidents – one involving a nearly-passed out Turner climbing in bed with the victim and assaulting her. Another involved Bower and Beierwalter dragging her off into another room, where she was raped.

Allen County Deputy Prosecutor Tom Chaille said the victim had little to no memory of what occurred that night.

“It has been an ongoing revelation to her,” he said.

And even though she was intoxicated, she should be able to reasonably expect to be safe, particularly when someone has said they would protect her, as Turner had, Chaille said.

Prosecutors showed a series of photographs to the judge, taken by a cellphone camera, showing Turner in bed with the victim.

DNA consistent with Turner’s was found during the course of the investigation, court records said.

“I said ‘no’ so many times,” the woman said during an interview at Fort Wayne’s Sexual Assault Treatment Center, according to court records.

Turner’s guilty plea late last year was, as Surbeck noted during Wednesday’s lengthy sentencing hearing, the beginning of the end of the case.

But with that plea agreement, Turner received a significant benefit in a reduced charge, Surbeck said.

Turner’s father, an iron and steel worker from northwest Indiana, spoke of his son’s good character and success. Surbeck noted that, too.

“But for this offense, this young man has created an extraordinary reputation and a bright future,” Surbeck said. “He has tarnished that.”

Citing a number of high-profile sexual assault cases in the news over the past few years – such as the sexual assault of incapacitated teenage girl by high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio, and the increase in military sexual assaults – Surbeck said it is clear that the culture’s sexual mores continue to change.

“Folks are still not learning these lessons,” he said.

Rarely does Surbeck mention prison as a necessary part of demonstrating the seriousness of a crime, but he did Wednesday as he sentenced Turner.

“Good people do bad things,” he said. “And there are consequences. A wholly suspended sentence would depreciate the seriousness of the crime.”

He sentenced Turner to three years in prison, but ordered one year to be served at the Indiana Department of Correction and suspended the other two years, which Turner must serve on probation.

After hearing his sentence, Turner turned to his family and smiled wryly and sighed. Before the bailiffs cuffed his hands behind his back, Turner removed his grey suit coat, tie and belt – handing them to his attorney. He was then led from the courtroom.

rgreen@jg.net

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