Turner found insane in killing, heads to mental hospital

Samuel Turner is shown after being booked in 2007.

Samuel Turner, the man accused of strangling and murdering
Elizabeth Esther Gomez nearly four years ago, was committed to a
state mental health facility Friday after a San Benito County jury
had found him not guilty for reason of insanity.
Samuel Turner, the man accused of strangling and murdering Elizabeth Esther Gomez nearly four years ago, was committed to a state mental health facility Friday after a San Benito County jury had found him not guilty for reason of insanity.

Turner was accused of killing Gomez almost four years ago in March of 2007. Gomez was found stabbed and strangled to death inside her apartment bedroom when police arrived, according to court documents. Turner was found inside the apartment.

Turner, age 25 at the time and a resident of San Jose, was inside the apartment when they arrived, authorities said. He had suffered what then- Capt. Bob Brooks said appeared to be a self-inflicted knife wound to the scrotum.

The case was postponed for years because of Turner’s deteriorating mental health and his lack of mental competency for trial, according to court documents. During the court process, Turner faced allegations of torturing Gomez.

In August of 2008, Turner was ordered to take his first psychiatric test after the county jail reported he wasn’t doing well.

In December, Turner changed his plea to not guilty for reasons of insanity, said Candice Hooper, San Benito District Attorney. After the change, prosecutors and the defendant’s attorney, public defender Harry Damkar, moved forward with a mental health evaluation and a recommendation of treatment.

Turner was committed to a state mental health facility based on the mental health reports and an agreement from the district attorney’s office and the defendant.

There is no requirement on the time Turner must stay at the facility, Hooper said. His release is dependent on his mental health.

“I thoroughly considered and examined the doctor’s report before I agreed to it,” Hooper said.

Based on the doctor’s report, Hooper doesn’t expect Turner to be released for some time.

“There is a very slight chance he well be released given his mental condition,” she said. “There is very little chance we would be allowed out.”

Turner was sentenced to the mental health facility Jan. 21 in front of emotionally charged members of the victim’s family – including Hollister City Councilman Victor Gomez, the victim’s brother. Four family members spoke to the judge and Turner during Friday’s proceedings.

If Turner were found guilty in criminal court he would have faced a sentencing of 25 years to life in prison, Hooper said. If Turner’s stay in the mental health facility is reviewed, Gomez’s family members will be allowed to be present along with the district attorney’s office.

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