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The Monique Turenne Story

Part 1: A soldier's murder, continued

Part 1a | Part 1b | Part 2a | Part 2b

Dan Lett - Winnipeg Free Press

Over drinks one evening Crompton said he and Monique first talked about an affair. Both had a lot to lose if found out. Adultery would take a major bite out of Crompton's take-home pay for alimony and child support. For Monique, a divorce would mean returning to Canada. "From that conversation, I said to myself, 'That's great. I had basically given up on my marriage and now I can have an affair with somebody that has a lot to lose and who won't say anything,'" Crompton said. A couple of weeks later, Crompton claimed he and Monique had their first intimate encounter. They met late at night and drove to a stretch of secluded beach east of Tyndall Air Force Base. With a couple of blankets and some liquor supplied by Monique, they made love on the beach. Crompton claimed the liaison continued for some weeks, sometimes in motels and sometimes in Crompton's office on the base long after everyone else had left.

Crompton said he and Monique devised a series of telephone codes to see if a rendezvous was on for a particular evening. "A lot of times one of us couldn't get out. So that's when we came up with the codes. If it's off, call one time at this time. Just let it ring once and that's it. That would be a no-go. If there was no phone call at that time, it's a go."

Monique Turenne

The affair continued until Christmas, 1995, when both agreed a break was in order. Ralph was getting ready to take a posting with Applied Research Associates in Aiken, S. C. testing ground samples in the Savannah River Valley for radiation, Monique, meanwhile, was struggling to keep up with a load of five nursing school courses.

Crompton claimed the two had discussed their marital problems, but he never got any hint that she wanted to end her marriage, by divorce or murder. They both understood that if her marriage ended, she would have to return to Canada.

"We based our relationship, the whole thing, on honesty, so I could trust her and she could trust me."

One of the advantages of life in Florida is that the work day begins and ends early. So it was on Feb. 8, 1996, that David Turenne packed up his briefcase and left Tyndall Air Force Base at about 4 p.m. to enjoy the last couple hours of soft Panama City sunlight.

Turenne may have stopped at the Canadian officers' club on base for a beer or two before heading home, as was his pattern. He arrived home at about 5 p.m., helped prepare dinner and then afterwards, helped with the laundry. At about 10 p.m., Turenne went to his bedroom to read.

Around the same time Turenne was leaving work, Ralph Crompton got in a rented green Mercury Topaz for an eight hour drive back to Panama City. He paid cash and made sure the car had no rental tags on it. He had called in sick that day to the job foreman from Applied Research Associates and told the front desk at the Holiday Inn to hold all calls and maid service until he felt better.

Before he left Aiken, Crompton made several phone calls. One was to his wife in Panama City to tell her he was sick and should not be disturbed. And one other was to Monique Turenne at her work station. Crompton said the call was to confirm his intention to meet early Friday morning to rekindle their affair.

The true purpose of Crompton's mission was the subject of great speculation. Panama City police and prosecutors argued at trial Crompton made the trip with the murder of David Turenne on his mind. They also believe Monique set the table for a fatal conflict between the two men by sending her husband to an all-night grocery store.

Police said they had reason to believe Monique was planning some harm to her husband. Thursday afternoon -- hours before the murder -- Monique went to the truck repair bay at the rear of the ARA facility where she shared cigarette breaks with other employees. Gary Wagner, a co-worker at ARA, said Monique approached him that afternoon and made a startling request.

"(Monique) said the next door neighbour's son, a 16-year-old, had threatened to bash her son's head in with a hammer," said Wagner, a bear of a man with a deep southern drawl. "She asked if she could have a pistol 'cause she knew I had guns at home. I told her straight up if . . . you pull a gun on him you're going to jail."

Monique denies she asked Wagner for a gun. However, her story has changed. In early interviews, she denied ever talking with Wagner on the afternoon before the murder. In a subsequent interview, however, she conceded the two had talked about the trouble with the neighbourhood child, but it was Wagner who asked if she had a gun to protect herself.

At this point, Crompton's and Monique's versions about what happened next differ wildly. All police can say for sure is that after purchasing Midol and Tagamet, a stomach remedy, at a local 24-hour grocer at about 2.10 a.m., David Turenne returned home in his Dodge Caravan, parked in the driveway and walked towards the garage door. Somewhere between the van and the garage , Turenne was beaten to death with a blunt object believed to be a ball-peen hammer. Although the receipt for the Midol and Tagamet was found in his pocket, police never recovered the bottles.

Monique, in a series of detailed interviews with the Free Press, claimed she awoke early that morning -- she is not sure of the precise time -- to find her son Daniel held captive by a tall, thin man with a blond pony tail. The man had a knife and demanded to see David.

Monique said she pleaded for Daniel's release. The man, who she said had tattoos on his arms and shoulders, angrily refused and forced the two into David's bedroom, only to find he was not there. Then, Monique said, the pony-tailed man forced them from room to room looking for a briefcase full of money. When he couldn't find it, he forced them to sit on the living room couch to wait for David to return home, she said.

The hours dragged on, Monique said. At one point, she claimed the pony-tailed man opened a door from the house to the attached garage and had an inaudible conversation with at least one other man who was searching the garage.

Continuing the search, the pony-tailed man eventually found a briefcase high up on a shelf in the hallway closet. Monique claimed that when he opened it, she could see it was full of cash.

At about 5 a.m., Monique said the pony-tailed man ordered everyone to get dressed. She said she returned to the children's bedroom and got the kids ready for school. When she returned to the living room, Monique said the man was gone.

It was still dark outside and Monique said she entered the attached garage and opened the garage door, which flooded the driveway with light. Venturing outside, she saw a body lying face down on the grass in front of a gate leading to the backyard. As she got closer, she could tell it was David.

As she tried to find any sign of life, the pony-tailed man appeared from behind a bush. "He told me,' If you say anything to the police, I will kill you and your children.' Then he was gone," Monique said.

Monique went back into the house and called 911. However, when police arrived she did not mention the pony-tailed man or the briefcase full of money. In three subsequent police interviews, she continued to maintain her silence about the intruders. In fact, until being interviewed for this article, she had not told anyone outside of immediate family and friends. She said this was because of the threats made against her children.

Crompton's version of events is, as expected, radically different.

Crompton said he had been lured to Panama City on the promise of a brief but intense sexual encounter with Monique, whom he claimed had a fantasy to have sex while her husband slept down the hall.

Crompton said although he resisted her invitation for some time, after several weeks in Aiken he developed an acute sexual appetite. He said Monique exploited this by tempting him with promises she had bought lingerie from Victoria's Secret.

Crompton admitted he deceived his boss, the hotel and rental car staff and his family to make the trip to Panama City. But he denies murderous intentions. "She had a fantasy of screwing in each other's house with the other spouse there. Now, she said she could get her fantasy fulfilled if I could be there at about 2:30 (a.m.) or so. That way, we could be together for an hour or so. I can go out and sleep in the car. She even gave me a location to park the car at an empty house."

When Crompton arrived at the Turenne house in the early hours of Feb. 9, he said he parked his car and made his way to the backyard. Crompton claimed that when he arrived at the patio doors leading to the master bedroom, they were locked. He knocked quietly on the door, but received no answer. Deciding to leave well enough alone, Crompton turned to leave.

As he returned through the fence gate, he noticed headlights approaching the Turenne house. As the vehicle got closer, he said he recognized Turenne's minivan. The vehicle pulled into the driveway and Crompton said he hid behind a bush near the gate. Turenne left the van and punched a code into the security pad near the garage door, which began to open.

Crompton said at this moment, he tried to make his escape. But as he moved down the driveway, he heard what he recognized as Monique's voice in the garage. Although he could not make out the words, when he turned around he saw David Turenne charging out of the garage with some sort of weapon in his hand.

"I was in the dark. He couldn't have known it was me," Crompton said.

"Basically, I got behind him. He had hit me a couple of good times. As we wrestled, I ended up on my back with him wailing on me. I rolled over (on my stomach) defending myself, and that's when I heard the conk. That's when she hit him. She kept on hitting him but she didn't hit the head, she was swinging on his shoulders."

When Crompton got to his feet, he turned and saw Monique with a hammer in her hand. He demanded to know what the hell was going on. Then he saw David Turenne, lying face down, making gurgling noises. "He was breathing OK. I checked his pulse (but) now I'm freaking out. It's 2.30 in the morning, we've just had a fight in the front yard and . . . I'm thinking the cops are going to be here any second. I told her, 'Give me five minutes and then call 911.'"

Crompton got in his rental car and proceeded directly back to Aiken. Along the way he stopped at a pay phone and called Monique. He said he asked if she had called 911, and she said no. Then he said, she hung up.

"I don't know what she was going to tell the police. I was out of there. I panicked. If I had stayed, Dave would have been alive.". . .

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