George Turner never ducked a challenge.

So when two of Texas’ more noteworthy 20th century head-scratchers required a peace officer with daring and dedication, the longtime Texas Ranger quickly stepped forward.

Turner, who retires Sept. 30 as a Company F Ranger lieutenant, was celebrating his birthday on July 31, 1993, and returning to Cleburne from Waco, family in tow, when he received word that two young women, Jennifer Westin and Sandi Marbut, had been murdered in Grandview.

Turner did a detour and shifted his renowned investigative powers into overdrive. Those powers took him to suspect Bobby Ray Hopkins.

According to Web site, “On the evening the bodies were found, Texas Ranger George Turner questioned several bystanders at the scene and, as a result, went in search of Hopkins. Turner learned that Hopkins had been in the girls’ apartment approximately two weeks before the murders and, at that time, got in an argument with Sandi over money that was missing from her purse. Sandi thought that Hopkins had taken the money and asked him to leave and not come back.

“Later that evening, Ranger Turner interviewed Hopkins and noticed that Hopkins had cuts on his hands and arms. Turner also noticed what appeared to be blood on Hopkins’ boots. Hopkins allowed Turner to take the boots. Subsequent tests showed that the blood on the boots was consistent with the blood of Jennifer, Sandi and Hopkins. Virginia Smith, a nurse at the Johnson County Law Enforcement Center, drew blood from Hopkins and noticed fresh scratches or cuts on his hands.”

Hopkins confessed to a Hobbs, N.M., police officer in a videotaped interview. His blood was found in numerous areas of the girls’ apartment, and a boot print matching his footwear was found in the bedroom of the apartment.

The case was open and shut, though not according to Hopkins. He went to his Feb. 17, 2004, execution claiming that Turner had planted the blood on his boots.

Fifteen years later, Turner claims not to be bothered by Hopkins’ statement.

“What he said on his deathbed was between him and his Maker,” said Turner, a Cleburne resident.

Turner has not forgotten the night of the crime.

“That was my birthday,” he said. “We were still pretty much involved in the Branch Davidian investigation, and I was late getting a report to Waco. I drove down to Waco to turn in the report on Saturday night. I had my whole family with me. I took them to the scene with me. We had a suspect that night, Mr. Hopkins.”

Final appeals of the execution went for naught. Hopkins declined his last meal and spoke only one sentence before lethal injection was administered at 8:11 p.m.: “Warden, at this time, I have no statement, sir.” He was dead eight minutes later.

Turner had played a key role in the investigation of the Branch Davidian Compound catastrophe in Waco on April 19, 1993.

The FBI acknowledged that federal agents fired one or more incendiary tear gas canisters during the standoff with Branch Davidians while maintaining its stance that it did not start the fire that consumed the compound with leader David Koresh and more than 80 followers inside, according to the Web site “Remember Waco!”

On June 30, 1999, Turner issued a memo to Ranger Chief Bruce Casteel, stating in part: “At approximately 2:15 p.m. while operating in Sector EC1, I located and collected what would later become evidence item Q1237. This exhibit was a spent 40 mm metallic cartridge. This item was found among 28 plastic Ferret rounds that had contained CS liquid gas.”

Rangers Charles Brune and Joe Peters, both military veterans, told Turner the 40 mm cartridge was a “thumper round.”

“Both Rangers stated that the cartridge fired a high explosive round,” Turner wrote in his memo. “It was submitted as an exhibit at that time with the 28 Ferret plastic cartridges.”

Turner testified as to his findings.

He wrote that FBI Agent Rick Crum “told me that he had checked the lot numbers of the item in question and that the round did belong to the FBI, and it had been fired by them. He continued by saying that the agents who were dispensing the CS gas into the compound on April 19 had fired the round after obtaining permission to do so. I do not know who gave the permission.”

Turner remembers the tension of the investigation.

“I was a team leader down there investigating what led to the fire and events after the fire. I testified.”

Hopkins and Koresh are certainly two memories for Turner.

“I’ve got so many,” he said. “I had some of the dangdest murder cases you ever saw in Ellis and Johnson County.”

Turner joined the Texas Department of Public Safety as a trooper in 1973 in Hill County.

He came to Johnson County in 1975, became a highway patrol sergeant in 1982 and then was transferred to Houston.

He joined the Rangers on March 1, 1985, came to Fort Worth in 1986, and moved back to Cleburne in 1987 before going to Company F headquarters in Waco as a lieutenant in 2001.

“Ever since I was little, I wanted to be in law enforcement,” he said. “I’m 58. It’s all I’ve done since I was 21. I enjoyed every single minute in highway patrol. When the opportunity presented itself to become a Ranger, I took it.”

Turner is probably perceived as hard-nosed by those he has interrogated.

Around friends and colleagues, he’s extraordinarily laid-back with an “aw-shucks” manner.

“I like to have fun and laugh and joke,” he said. “You have to be able to turn that on and off. There’s a time to be serious and a time to have fun.”

He patterned himself after a retired Ranger, Ray Nutt.

“I always admired him,” Turner said. “He was an excellent investigator and interrogator and a good guy to be around. He liked to have fun, but he was all business when it was time for business.”

Turner is considered one of the Rangers’ premier homicide investigators and interviewers. He said he would be eager to teach some of what he has learned.

“But so much of this is instinct,” he said. “You get out there and learn it and do it. So much of this stuff can’t be taught. Every case is different.”

He said he’s never been conned by a suspect.

“I don’t think one has.”

Part of the key to interviewing is preparation, Turner said.

"You’d better go into the interview with your ducks already lined up. You’d better know the answers to the questions before you ask them.”

Sometimes, he got the answers he wanted. Sometimes, he didn’t.

“The ones who confess, I think there’s a little bit of decency in them in wanting to get it off their chest,” Turner said. “Some do it because they think the court will see they’re cooperative. You might throw some options out there while you’re interviewing them. You always want to give him an out and let him justify why he thought he had to do what he did.”

Turner saluted law enforcement personnel he has worked with.

“My success is due to the people around me,” he said.

A number of retired Rangers have written books about their days as Rangers. That’s not for Turner.

“First of all, I can’t imagine that I’d have anything interesting to say,” he said. “Also, I don’t like publicity or the limelight.”

Turner is certain he’ll miss the job.

“I’m like an old convict who’s been in the pen for 35 years, and that’s all he’s ever known,” Turner said. “He can’t function in the real world. The TDC does it for him. That may be me and DPS. I’ll miss it till I ache.”

On the other hand, he said, it’s time to move on “and let the younger and smarter ones have their chance at it.”

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