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For the week of August 13 - 19, 2003

News

Hailey Chamber director killed in Utah

Conflict over child custody ends tragically


By MATT FURBER
Express Staff Writer

The shooting death Friday of Hailey Chamber of Commerce Director Natalie Turner, 31, near Park City, Utah, has come as a shock to her family and peers.

Natalie Turner, 31, who was killed Friday near Park City, Utah, had been director of the Hailey Chamber of Commerce since December 2002. Express file photo

The investigation is complex and people are struggling with the details, said Sun Valley and Ketchum Chamber Executive Director, Carol Waller, who was a mentor to Turner. She had been Haileyís director since December 2002.

"She was really enthusiastic about being involved in the community," Waller said. "She was excited about her job and very conscientious. So, the nature of what happened seems bizarre and shocking."

Turnerís death is being treated as a homicide, said Summit County Prosecuting Attorney David Brichey. The Utah Department of Public Safety State Bureau of Investigation is heading the investigation to determine whether law enforcement officers involved in the shooting were justified in their actions, Brichey said.

Turner had gone to Utah with her fiancťe David Gayler, of Hailey, to discuss the custody of her children with her ex-husband John Pochynok, said her sister Audrie Turner Terre. She came to Hailey from Tuscon, Ariz., when she heard the news of her sisterís death.

"My father dealt for hours with the media (Sunday)," Terre said. "She was a wonderful person. She just snapped. Itís been beyond bearable for years. Iím surprised she didnít snap sooner. I never could have held out as long as she did."

Her sister said Turner had been struggling with her ex-husband over child custody since her divorce in 2000. She has two children, Carter, 7, and Clara, 4.

"The greatest joy in her life were her children. She loved them more than life itself," Terre said. "They miss their mommy. We donít know what we are going to do."

Terre said Turner had gone to Utah Monday, Aug. 4, for a hearing about her childrenís custody.

She then returned to Hailey. But, on Thursday, Aug. 7, she received word from her attorney that she was to return to Utah with her children or face a jail sentence and a $1,000 fine.

"The decision totally went against her," Terre said. "All the data was on her side. All the innuendo was on his side."

Turner and Gayler left for Utah on Friday, Aug. 8, to confront her ex-husband at his Park City home about their child custody problems, her sister said.

About 6:30 p.m. that day officers from four Utah law enforcement jurisdictions responded to a "high risk" 911 call involving three individuals in a silver Mitsubishi, who could be armed, said Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds in a telephone interview Monday.

Two officers allegedly shot Turner on a rural highway near Park City after she allegedly aimed a .357-caliber Magnum at a Summit County deputy, Edmunds said.

Turnerís ex-husband John Pochynok was found in the backseat suffering from two gunshot wounds. Gayler, who was driving the car, surrendered to police, Edmunds said.

Gayler is still being held at the Wasatch County Jail as a suspect in connection with the wounding of Pochynok, Rosenhan said.

Turner and Pochynok were both transported to the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City: Turner by life flight and Pochynok by ambulance, Edmunds said. Turner was declared dead at the hospital and an autopsy was performed on Saturday.

Hospital spokespersons said Pochynokís family would not release any information about his condition, but Edmunds said he was in critical, but stabile condition.

"Since (Turnerís death) involved one of our deputies, we deferred to the state to lead the investigation," Edmunds said.

"Interviews and evidence are still being analyzed," said Utah State Bureau of Investigation spokesman Sergeant Dan Rosenhan. "We have three (videos from) Ďdash camsí that show a struggle in the car. Two shots rang out on film. We can see evidence of bullets striking Turner."

Rosenhan said the videos show her getting out of the car with a handgun.

"It was a strange turn of events," he said.

Pochynok could face criminal charges as well, Rosenhan said. It is still not clear who was in control in the Mitsubishi when police pulled the car over.

The investigation involves more than half a dozen eyewitnesses, an emergency call about a domestic disturbance at Pochynokís home and the subsequent shooting.

Five separate law enforcement officers responded to the scene of the shooting, Edmunds said. They included Summit and Wasatch County deputies, a Utah State patrolman and a Utah Division of Wildlife resources conservation officer, who allegedly shot Turner with a revolver at the same time as a Summit County deputy fired a shotgun, Edmunds said.

Police responded after a witness, calling 911, relayed live details to emergency dispatch of a domestic disturbance that spilled outdoors at Deer Mountain Estates, a housing development near the Jordanelle Reservoir, where Pochynok lives, Edmunds said.

The caller stayed on the phone until Turner, Gayler and Pochynok left the home, which is in Wasatch County, in the Mitsubishi, Edmunds said. One Summit County deputy arrived at the scene just as the Mitsubishi was pulling out of the driveway. He said the deputy signaled the vehicle to pull over about two miles from the development in neighboring Summit County, after back up arrived.

A hearing is scheduled for Gayler Friday, Aug. 15, in 4th District Court in Heber City. Wasatch County Prosecuting Attorney Derek Pullan is screening the charges about Gaylerís possible involvement in the domestic disturbance.

"Everyone knew she was dealing with a custody issue, but she dealt with it on the side," Hailey Chamber President Jeff Burtz said. "She came to us with extraordinary skills. She was too good to be true."

There will be a blessing ceremony for the public at the Angel Factor Bed and Breakfast in Hailey Friday, Aug. 22, at 7 p.m.

"People can enter on Third Avenue," B&B owner Michelle Factor said. "We will use the singing crystal bowls for the blessing. Turner really liked them."

(An obituary appears on Page A24 of the August 13, 2003 Idaho Mountain Express.)

 

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