“Yes, we attract alpha males."
On the last night of her life, Jennifer Lea Evans didn’t want to leave the party. She was drawn to the good-looking Navy SEAL. So she told her girlfriends to go on while she stayed with Dustin Allen Turner at the Bayou, a Virginia Beach dance club.
Evans, an attractive 21-year-old pre-med student on vacation from Atlanta, finally left the Bayou around 1:30 a.m. — hand in hand with Turner.
She was never seen alive again.
Local police launched a massive search. Volunteers from Tucker, Jennifer’s home suburb in Atlanta, came to help. After an in tensive nine-day search, police found her sexually abused body buried in the woods an hour’s drive west of the SEAL base.
With the help of more than 100 tips, police arrested Turner, 20, and Billy Joe Brown, Jr., 23, Turner’s SEAL buddy who’d also been at the bar that night. Both were charged with abduction, sexual assault, and murder.
The arrests have rocked Coronado’s tightly knit SEAL community: Dustin Turner and Billy Joe Brown were both trainee SEALs from Coronado who had recently been transferred to Virginia Beach.
“We’re devastated. It is a real blow to the SEAL community,” says Commander Glen King, spokesman for Coronado’s Navy SEALs. The elite corps has already been hit by two recent, widely publicized local incidents involving members of the group. Twenty months ago, SEAL officer Alton Grizzard was shot in a love-triangle tragedy at the Naval Amphibious Base officers’ quarters, and in January, SEAL Graham Eric Allen surrendered himself to sheriffs after the shooting death of a transient, Arthur Gaxiola, in Imperial Beach. In June, a Superior Court jury acquitted Allen of murder, but they deadlocked on a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.
Does the “wildman” image fit the SEALs? Does the “special operations” life attract and encourage a certain type? One military-trained San Diego psychiatrist says, “Maybe.”
“They’re strange birds,” says the doctor, who asked not to be named. “The special-operations field attracts a certain kind of sociopathy. A lack of conscience, a real inability to relate in the usual way to usual people. Here’s the problem with some — and it’s not all — of these guys: They generally do just fine in situations where they are in combat zones where there are no rules. Not only do they not have to take responsibility sometimes in these situations, they are rewarded for what would otherwise be criminal activity. [When they’re back in civilian life], they have to internalize all this aggression they’ve learned for survival.”
According to the psychiatrist, drinking is not unusual among SEALs. “Many who gravitate to this kind of life have unusual, pathological responses to alcohol. Someone who might look okay when he went into the bar, but when he came out, [after he trashed the place], he could be a completely different looking person because of the effect of the alcohol.”
“Anyone who does a difficult job like training to be a SEAL, they’re a little bit full of •themselves,” concedes onetime Coronado SEAL teams’ commanding officer Captain Daniel Hendrickson. “And I think they deserve to be a little bit full of themselves. These lads are very good physical specimens. They certainly know enough about hand-to-hand combat that they could do a reasonable job against another man, and most assuredly against someone like a young woman. But again, there’s continual emphasis that this is supposed to be used in a combatant situation.”
“There were just no indicators, no red flags whatsoever that these two guys would do anything like this at all,” says Commander King. “And all along the way [during their year in training] they were evaluated very closely by instructors. It’s unfortunate and we’re just devastated.”
As to the murder, what actually happened depends on who you listen to.
The police version: A Virginia Beach Police search warrant affidavit says Turner and Brown, who were roommates at SEAL Team 4, had been at the Bayou Club during the evening of June 18; Turner had spent most of his time with Jennifer Evans. Police say shortly before closing time Turner had asked a friend for a condom. He said he was going to have sex.
Around 1:30 a.m., witnesses told police they saw Evans leave the club with Turner, walking towards his Geo sports car in the Radisson Hotel parking lot. (The club was on the hotel’s first floor.)
Meanwhile, witnesses told police Billy Joe Brown had been drinking heavily, and after being turned down for sex by a former girlfriend, followed Turner out for a ride home. The three drove off together. When Evans’s body was discovered nine days later, it had been sexually molested after death.
The affidavit does not specifically say which of the two actually killed Evans.
Turner's version: The way Turner’s lawyer, veteran defender Richard Brydges, tells it, Turner was a victim too — of his Navy SEAL buddy’s murderous nature and his own “movie-star” good looks.
Brydges says Turner never intended to even take Evans home, just to walk her out to her friend’s car.
“When they got to the parking lot he said good-bye to her, and she said, ‘Can I have a hug,’ and he said, ‘Sure,’ and he swears to me that’s the only time he ever touched her.”
Some conversation ensued about whether Turner should call Evans later on that night, but her girlfriends, who had joined them in the parking lot, protested, says Brydges, because they didn’t want to be woken up. “So Jennifer decided to go back in [with Turner] until the place closed, and the other girls were going to get coffee and sandwiches and come back to pick her up.”
Brydges says Turner and Evans then returned to the club. Turner told Billy Joe Brown to please get a ride home with someone else. Brown by then was roaring drunk. He yelled at Turner, “You leave me here, it’ll be the last thing you ever do!”
“Dustin told Jennifer, ‘Let’s go out to the car, we’ll play some tapes — I can’t just leave him here because I can tell the frame of mind he’s in he’ll tear this place all to pieces.’
“So they were sitting in the car when Brown [appeared], got into the car in the back seat uninvited, began to fool with Jennifer’s hair, and reached over from the back seat to the front. And she kept taking his hand off her shoulders, as did [Turner], telling him to leave her alone. And the next thing you know, the Brown boy had her around the neck... both arms around her neck! [Turner] attempted to pull those arms off, but it was so quick — those guys are well-trained you know — it was instantaneous."
Brown then called on Turner to help him dispose of the body, according to Brydges. “The SEAL camaraderie and brotherhood took over and... my client did some things that certainly were not wise. He didn’t call the police. They took the body out in the woods somewhere."
Brydges thinks the autopsy may show that Brown broke her neck. However, Michael Kerry, spokesman for Virginia Beach Police, says the body’s decomposition could preclude any more specific cause of death than the coroner’s report, which stated, “undetermined criminal violence with homicide as the manner.”
Brown’s version: Brown’s court-appointed attorney, Randall Clark, tells a different story. “Mr. Brown left the Bayou bar some 15 minutes after Mr. Turner, in search of a ride home, and he went to the car and found Mr. Turner getting out of the back seat, and when [Brown) approached, Mr. Turner ordered him to get in the car. (Brown) admitted to being intoxicated, and as he was getting in the car he saw Jennifer Evans lying in the back seat with blood coming out of her mouth. So it’s his contention that the murder took place in that 15-minute window |before he came out].”
Three weeks after the killing, federal agents searched Turner’s Bloomfield, Indiana, apartment and said they found stolen military ordnance — enough to blow up a small house — including four-and-a-half pounds of C-4 plastic explosive, blasting caps, fuse igniters, boosters, and smoke grenades, according to a Navy spokesman in Norfolk, Virginia.
But Brown has a reputation, too — of violence against women. He first caught police attention in Ohio, when he was 17 (and even then, 6’2” and 205 pounds), having a quarrel with a 14-year-old girl he identified as his wife. He allegedly threatened to kill neighbors, strong-armed his wife, and held off several police officers till reinforcements came, according to newspaper accounts.
“BE SOMEONE SPECIAL!!!” says the BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL) training-information booklet. “This program will push you to your physical and mental limits, again and again, until you are hard and strong, both physically and mentally, and ready for the adventure of a lifetime in the SEAL teams..."
But does the program push some young men beyond their physical and mental limits?
“Good heavens, yes,” says one retired SEAL’s wife who asked not to be identified. “A lot of the men I met in there were on the wild fringes. You felt they shouldn’t be in there.”
“They’re a different breed,” insists Turner’s lawyer Brydges. “They don’t think and talk and act like everybody else.”
“Yes, we attract alpha males," says Captain Hendrickson. “And there are wild-men.... I had a swim-buddy like that. He ended up later killing himself in an automobile accident. But if anything, there’s a lot more screening than there used to be. And there’s considerable focus on weeding out anyone who could be an inappropriate personality type.”
But Jennifer Lea Evans’s grieving mother Delores isn’t so confident. “This is a very elite, specialized, and I’m sure very expensive [group] for the taxpayers. I would hope that the Navy would review their screening process to see if there is anything that should be beefed up before they find somebody else in this situation.”
A preliminary hearing has been set for September 28.