This story originally aired on Jan. 14.
called 911 saying she had discovered her fiancé Matthew Trussler lying unresponsive near their swimming pool in Riverview, Florida. He was pronounced dead at the scene and an autopsy later revealed he had died from stab wounds. It was Oct. 18, 2019, and Melissa initially told detectives that the couple had been drinking the night before, but that she could remember few details. However, when investigators found a security camera above a neighbor’s garage door that held clues to what happened, her story changed. Prosecutors say Melissa can be heard screaming at Matthew on an audio recording from the camera. She said she stabbed her fiancé, acting in self-defense when he tried to choke her. Melissa Turner was eventually arrested and charged with second degree murder with a weapon.
“I thought this was it. I thought he was going to kill me. And I stabbed him lightly in the back just to get him off me,” Turner told Moriarty. “I didn’t do what they’re saying I did. If I’m going to prison, then I’m going down fighting.”
THE DAY MATTHEW TRUSSLER DIED
911 OPERATOR: Hillsborough County Fire and Rescue. What’s the address of the emergency?
MELISSA TURNER: Please —
911 OPERATOR: Tell me what’s wrong.
MELISSA TURNER: He is nonresponsive.
Melissa Turner: I couldn’t stop crying.
Melissa Turner can vividly describe the moment as medics tried to revive her fiancé, Matthew Trussler.
Melissa Turner: I watched the EMTs unfold the sheet and, um, lay the white sheet over him.
Two years later, Melissa still struggles to talk about the day Matthew died.
Melissa Turner: And it was — it was when that happened that I couldn’t hold in the tears and everything.
It was around 8:30 a.m. when Melissa says she found Matthew unresponsive on the back patio of the house they shared in a suburb of Tampa, Florida.
Melissa Turner: I tried to see if he was breathing. And I tried to — to start CPR.
Just a couple hours later, still covered in blood, Melissa agreed to talk to the investigators at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. She says she wanted to help them figure out what had happened to Matthew.
Melissa Turner: I was just saying “yes” and complying with whatever was kind of said or told to me. … the world around me didn’t really feel real in those moments.
MELISSA TURNER (interrogation): This is a lot less glamorous than they make it on TV.
Melissa told the detectives the couple’s day had started off just like any other. They took care of their pets, did house chores as seen in previously posted Facebook videos and went grocery shopping. She admitted they were also drinking alcohol throughout the day leading into the evening.
MELISSA TURNER (interrogation): I mean, that’s what we do. We had just, we were there at the house ourselves … We had drinks. He always liked drinking. He was a drinker.
According to Melissa, around 11 p.m. she got tired and told Matthew she wanted to go to sleep. He was still up.
MELISSA TURNER: I slept on that — that big chair that’s in my little office area downstairs.
What she saw when she woke up the next morning, Melissa told investigators, didn’t make sense.
MELISSA TURNER: I saw the — the kitchen was — I didn’t see him outside at first. … I went upstairs, and I checked the bedroom … And I came back down again.
She says that’s when she discovered Matthew outside on the patio and began CPR.
DETECTIVE: You have his blood all over you.
MELISSA TURNER: I don’t understand.
DETECTIVE: You were trying to give CPR and help him.
Melissa is wearing latex gloves given to her by an officer at the scene.
DETECTIVE: He had you put them on because of the amount of blood.
MELISSA TURNER: I was getting things bloody cause I was covered in his blood.
DETECTIVE 2: Do you want to keep wearing those gloves, or do you wanna take them off?
MELISSA TURNER: I’ll leave them on for now.
DETECTIVE: Do you have any injuries on your person?
MELISSA TURNER: No (cries).
DETECTIVE: Any scratches or cuts or anything?
MELISSA TURNER: Not that I’ve noticed (cries).
The detectives eventually told Melissa she would need to take the gloves off so they could take photographs of her.
MELISSA TURNER (points to her right palm): I have a little cut right here.
DETECTIVE: And that’s from what?
MELISSA TURNER: I think it’s from grabbing the glass? Or — cause there — I know there was the broken glass this morning.
POLICE PHOTOGRAPHER: Open your hands a little more there. … Did that hurt to open it up? Sorry.
MELISSA TURNER: Oh my gosh, I didn’t know.
DETECTIVE: That one’s sliced pretty good.
MELISSA TURNER: I didn’t even notice.
DETECTIVE: Oh, wow.
MELISSA TURNER: I had no idea that was there.
As detectives worked to get to the bottom of what happened, Matthew’s family was learning Matthew had died. His brother Sean Trussler got the call from their mother.
Sean Trussler: I got a call that he died in an accident is what they told me.
Sean called his fiancée Jennifer immediately.
Jennifer Giles: He’s sobbing so hard and just screaming at the top of his lungs, “He’s gone. My brother, Mattie. Mattie’s gone. He’s dead.” … I’m getting chills just talkin’ about this.
Sean and Matthew Trussler were originally from Massachusetts. In 2015, Matthew followed in his brother’s footsteps and moved to Florida to work with him in the construction business. Sean, who lost one of his eyes due to a work accident shortly after his brother’s death, says the two made a good team.
Sean Trussler: I have worked Mattie very hard. … He just needed to be led correctly.
Matthew, or Mattie as Sean calls him, struggled with substance abuse and was looking at the move to Florida as a chance to start over.
Sean Trussler: He was a really good kid. … He worked so hard. He had the biggest heart. He loved everybody and everything.
Two years after his move, Melissa, then 24, met Matthew, 23 on an online dating app.
Melissa Turner: We met on Tinder … and I just liked how different Matt treated me … he made me feel more important. … he drew me in.
In 2019, the couple took a big step and bought a house together.
Melissa Turner: We were excited about the house … we were picking out, you know — paint colors for walls and furniture.
But Melissa says a few months into their new lives, their relationship became strained.
Melissa Turner: Matt’s drinking was getting worse … It was just becoming really — excessive.
At the sheriff’s office, Melissa had been adamant that there were no arguments between the couple that night.
MELISSA TURNER (interrogation): We were having a great time.
DETECTIVE: Was there anything physical, violent?
MELISSA TURNER: He was never violent. … He was always amazing with me.
But Melissa didn’t know that the detectives had been tipped off by the responding officer that Melissa had told him there had been an argument at the house the night before.
DETECTIVE: What were you and Matthew arguing about last night?
MELISSA TURNER: I don’t really remember. I mean, we might have got in argument. But it didn’t seem like anything … We weren’t, like, screaming at each other that I know of.
DETECTIVE: You told us that you guys were there. It was only the two of you. The two of you were drinking … my problem is, is I got Matthew on the back porch with stab wounds.
MELISSA TURNER: Stab wounds?
Meanwhile, another detective, Ryan LaGasse, was knocking on doors and canvassing the neighborhood for clues.
Ryan LaGasse: As I walked over here, you’ve got … the camera located directly above the residence … across the street here.
And what was captured by the home security camera, police say, would prove Melissa knew more than she was letting on.
MELISSA TURNER (neighbor’s security camera audio): Get up now! Get up! Get up! I hate you!
An eyewitness can be crucial to solving a crime, and just hours into the investigation of Matthew Trussler’s death, detectives discovered digital observers. There was an ADT camera inside the couple’s home, but at first glance, it didn’t appear to show any unusual activity.
Ryan LaGasse: Most of our information came from that camera that’s posted up above the garage.
It was a security camera on a neighbor’s garage that would prove invaluable — an unblinking eye trained on the side of Melissa and Matthew’s home that recorded sights and sounds.
Ryan LaGasse: So, I started looking at the footage.
LaGasse, a detective for the sheriff’s office at the time, saw only darkness and heard the near silence of suburbia until around 4 a.m.
Ryan LaGasse: I started to hear racketing. You know, things that were — sounded like they were crashing. And, um, so then, I kinda zoomed in my senses a little bit … And then, from there I started hearing voices … and then I hear what sounds like screaming, um, yelling.
LaGasse says those voices were coming from Matthew and Melissa’s house.
Erin Moriarty: How would you describe the tone of the voices that you heard?
Ryan LaGasse: So, the little bit of male voice … was tough to distinguish. But the female voice was very, um, very loud. Sounded very angry.
Erin Moriarty: What could you hear? What kind of phrases?
Ryan LaGasse: So, I heard —”Get up.” I heard — “So” and then there was an explicit “die.”
Erin Moriarty: You heard, “So die”?
MELISSA TURNER (neighbor’s security camera audio): “Go f***ing die!”
Ryan LaGasse: And then I heard — you know, it sounded like … a female voice was crying, saying, “What — what did I do?”
LaGasse immediately reached out to his colleagues, who were interviewing Melissa.
DETECTIVE: You said that last night you never woke up at all.
MELISSA TURNER: No. … I remember laying down. I remember waking up in the same spot.
Investigators now believed they had evidence that Melissa wasn’t telling all she knew.
DETECTIVE: Tell me about what happened around 4 o’clock this morning.
MELISSA TURNER: 4 o’clock? What happened at 4 o’clock?
DETECTIVE: I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking you.
MELISSA TURNER: I don’t know either. Why?
DETECTIVE: Was there any arguing —
MELISSA TURNER: At 4 o’clock?
DETECTIVE: — 4 o’clock this morning?
MELISSA TURNER: Not that I know of.
MELISSA TURNER: I believe I was asleep. … I have no memory of any argument at 4 o’clock in the morning.
But after detectives confronted her with the evidence, Melissa’s story changed.
DETECTIVE: I have some video surveillance … actually, yelling and screaming between a male and a female coming from your house.
DETECTIVE 2: What we need from you that would probably … make a lot more sense is to … tell us what that argument was about.
MELISSA TURNER: I would say he woke me up and we got in an argument over that. Because he was still up at four in the morning drinking.
DETECTIVE 2: OK. So, just so I’m clear, you do have memory of what happened, right?
MELISSA TURNER: Yes.
DETECTIVE: At 4 o’clock.
MELISSA TURNER: Yes.
DETECTIVE: Why were you yellin’ at him, “Bitch, get up. Bitch, get up”?
MELISSA TURNER: … actually, a lot of the times whenever he’s drinking and gets that drunk into the hours of the morning — he will just fall over.
DETECTIVE: You also said a couple of other things like, “Stay down. So f***ing die.” what are you talking about?
MELISSA TURNER: That was me being pissed off at him that he fell over.
DETECTIVE: You got a slice on your hand — a slice. That’s what that is. How did that happen?
The investigators again focused on that cut on Melissa’s hand.
DETECTIVE: It’s not from glass. I can tell you that.
Once again, her story changed.
MELISSA TURNER: He does get his knives out sometimes. … He wasn’t him anymore. … thinking back on it, this is from me grabbing a knife out of his hand. … And things got escalated from there.
Melissa later told “48 Hours” she wasn’t trying to hide the injury on her hand. In fact, she had mentioned it earlier to the 911 operator.
MELISSA TURNER (911 call): I have a cut on my hand …
Melissa Turner: I barely remembered, even after mentioning it on the 911 call, that my hand was sliced open (cries).
A few hours after Melissa placed that 911 call, she was arrested and charged with second degree murder with a weapon. Sean and Jennifer learned Melissa was in custody for Matthew’s murder from his mom, who called Melissa by her middle name, Rose.
Jennifer Giles: She said, “Rose killed him.” … I remember … we stood in my kitchen, and he just starts bawling.
Up until then, Sean and Jennifer say the couple didn’t appear to have any problems, but Sean says that Melissa did put a wedge between him and Matthew.
Sean Trussler: She just totally isolated him, and her, from the rest of the world. … and the truth is, like … how controlling and manipulating Rose was.
Sean says he hadn’t seen Matthew during the last six months of his life. The brothers had had a falling out after Matthew stopped working with Sean at his construction business.
Sean Trussler: She took Mattie long before she took him forever.
Sean and Jennifer say Melissa had two sides: as Matthew’s live-in partner and as a cosplay model, who dressed up in costume portraying famous fictional characters.
Erin Moriarty: What is that then? (looking at a photo of Melissa)
Jennifer Giles: That is actually from –
Sean Trussler: — “Scooby Doo.”
She made a living by producing and acting in her own adult videos.
Jennifer Giles: But it’s from a movie clip where she actually is performing, um, sexual acts.
And it wasn’t until after his death that they learned Melissa had cast Matthew as her partner in her videos.
Jennifer Giles: And I really feel like — the pressure, and the stress, and the fact that it was more, and more, and more just paid its toll on him.
Erin Moriarty: You think that maybe he just didn’t want to do those films anymore?
Jennifer Giles: Absolutely.
Sean Trussler: I think he was done with her.
IN SEARCH OF ANSWERS
After Sean and his fiancée Jennifer found out that Melissa had been arrested for Matthew’s murder, they began an investigation of their own.
Jennifer Giles: We came across things that were pretty disturbing.
Sean and Jennifer believe Matthew was becoming disenchanted with his role in those videos Melissa produced.
Jennifer Giles: I think at first it was OK, because he was seeing some fruits from his labor.
Sean Trussler: Money. Real money.
Jennifer Giles: But I think it got a little much.
They now wonder if Melissa had been looking for a partner for her videos when she spotted Matthew on that dating site.
Sean Trussler: People write little bios about themselves.
Jennifer Giles: … she went out and found someone with all the right stuff, the looks … the body and everything that goes with it.
Cameron Walega: She doesn’t do things without a bunch of research.
Cameron Walega, a former boyfriend of Melissa, met her before she began her career in the world of adult entertainment.
Cameron Walega: She was very artistic, so she was able to edit her own videos, edit her own pictures … very business driven.
The two met in 2012 when they were studying make-up effects at Douglas Education Center near Pittsburgh. Back then, Melissa was running a popular fitness blog after losing 100 pounds, later documenting her transformation on social media.
Cameron Walega: … it kept her accountable … she had this audience that was incredibly invested in what she was doing … watching her evolve as a person.
In 2013, Cameron and Melissa moved to Florida to pursue careers in special effects. There, Melissa confessed to Cameron that she had started a second blog with racier content.
Cameron Walega: … this was meant to be temporary. This was supplemental.
But Cameron says Melissa soon began earning a decent living doing what is called cam work, where she performed — in various stage of dress — for her internet followers who paid a fee.
Cameron Walega: She was so proud of where she got herself … “I used to be this incredibly insecure girl. Now they’re paying me to look at me.”
He says he began to see a change in Melissa’s personality as her business grew.
Cameron Walega: It became maniacal to a point where it was a complete obsession. And it was money, money, money … And the more and more success that she found, the more and more unstable she became.
Cameron Walega: She would scream at times that it would pierce your ear. … There were times where she was just unpredictable. Absolutely unpredictable.
Sean and Jennifer now wonder if Melissa’s volatility may have escalated an argument with Matthew on the night he died. Did he want out of the adult entertainment business?
Sean Trussler: I think maybe that night he was like “Yo, I’m done with this. I’m washin’ my hands.”
Jennifer Giles: She didn’t like whatever he said to her. And it made her blow her top.
But that’s not how it happened, says Melissa.
Melissa Turner (cries): After he was upset for me wanting to go to bed — But you know I stayed downstairs … his demeanor would start to get darker and darker from there.
Melissa Turner: Matt … had his knife out. It was the black — tactical switchblade.
Melissa Turner: There were times where he would get really upset and he would try and use it on himself. … and, so, it was a common thing for me to try and take a knife away from him.
Melissa Turner: On this night … He didn’t want to let go of the knife.
Melissa says Matthew was drunk and despondent. They struggled over the knife, she says, but after she managed to take it away, she says Matthew grabbed her by the neck and squeezed — a detail she failed to tell detectives during her interrogation.
Melissa Turner (cries): I thought this was it. I thought he was going to kill me. … And then I stabbed him lightly in the back just to get him off me.
She says after she stabbed him once in the back, Matthew pushed her into the kitchen counter, and she hit her head.
Melissa Turner: … he came at me. And that’s how I fell back and hit my head. … I … had a pretty severe head injury.
But that claim would later be challenged at her trial.
Melissa Turner: I remembered a few blurry steps … towards my office. But that was it. I just remember passing out—blacking out there.
John Trevena: She’s the real victim … She’s the one that was suffering the abuse.
John Trevena is Melissa’s attorney. He describes the couple’s relationship as toxic.
John Trevena: … particularly since she said it was escalating. … His drinking was escalating, his behavior issues were escalating … And it just unfortunately escalated into this very odd incident.
John Trevena: I don’t think it is a murder case. I think it is a case of — self-defense.
But Melissa’s version of events will be picked apart by prosecutors Katherine Fand and Chinwe Fossett at her trial.
Katherine Fand: There’s just nothing to support her statement.
Chinwe Fossett: She never mentions anything about anyone strangling her or anything, until days before trial … you really have to take that into consideration.
Besides the audio from the neighbor’s security camera, the state plans to present video from inside the couple’s home. Remember that ADT security footage recovered by investigators? Prosecutors believed it didn’t show any suspicious activity the night of Matthew’s death. But just before the trial, they discovered they misread the time and date.
Katherine Fand: I’ll be honest, I misunderstood the timing. It’s not recorded in Eastern Standard Time. It is recorded in Universal Time.
And what the video did capture, say prosecutors, would undermine Melissa’s defense.
KATHERINE FAND (closing arguments) We’re gonna show you some ADT videos.
KATHERINE FAND (closing arguments): He’s calmly walking … and you can see, she’s hunched over, she’s yelling. … She is angry and upset.
MELISSA TURNER TAKES THE STAND
On Valentine’s Day 2022, two years after Matthew Trussler was found dead on his patio, his fiancée Melissa Turner went on trial for murder.
Melissa had been out on bail since her arrest in 2019. But if she’s convicted, she knows she could spend the rest of her life behind bars.
Melissa Turner: It’ll be a world of weight off my shoulders for this trial to just be over.
The jury will hear nothing about her videos — her cosplay modeling and acting out fantasies online. The judge ruled it wasn’t relevant to the case. Prosecutor Chinwe Fossett sees it differently.
Chinwe Fossett: I did think that the jury should’ve known that she was an actress. … And she was able to make herself into this victim-type person, and then cry on demand.
Melissa’s attorney, John Trevena, told the jury that she didn’t mean to kill Matthew. That she stabbed him in self-defense during that struggle over the knife.
JOHN TREVENA (in court): Who killed Matthew Trussler? Matthew Trussler killed Matthew Trussler.
John Trevena: He did. He did it to himself because of his actions and his behaviors. … His drinking, his emotional abuse.
Erin Moriarty: You’re saying that Melissa had the right to kill him because he was drunk?
John Trevena: No. … Melissa had the right to kill him to defend herself from being strangled.
But Prosecutor Fosset says Matthew had no record or history of violence against anyone.
Erin Moriarty: Why do you believe that Melissa killed Matthew Trussler.
Chinwe Fossett: I think she was intoxicated, and I do think that she went far beyond anything she thought she would do. … Maybe she was just so frustrated with his drinking. … that she harms him so badly that he ends up dying.
At trial, Melissa decided to take a risk and testify. She described Matthew as an alcoholic who had exhibited abusive and unsettling behaviors in the past
MELISSA TURNER (in court): There were times where he would push me … and punch the walls beside my head.
MELISSA TURNER (in court): I had seen him cut himself, burn himself, stab himself.
MELISSA TURNER (in court): He would stare off at some corner … And he would tell me that “there’s a demon standing right there.” … There were times where … he would talk in a different voice (cries).
JOHN TREVENA: Did that frighten you?
MELISSA TURNER: God, yes. I was terrified.
Erin Moriarty: And this was happening on that night?
Melissa Turner (cries): Yeah. … He just had this little smile on his face. And he said, “What’s a matter, little girl? Are you scared? ‘Cause Matt’s not here anymore.”
Authorities never checked Melissa’s blood alcohol level, but Matthew’s was nearly five times the legal limit in Florida.
JOHN TREVENA: That level of blood alcohol not only is lethal, it can cause hallucinations, the demon that we’ve heard about.
CHINWE FOSSETT: But the medical examiner didn’t say that he died of alcohol — intoxication … The cause of death … is that he was stabbed, and he bled to death.
According to the medical examiner, Matthew had several small cuts and bruises and a possible defensive wound on his forearm. The fatal injury was not the stab wound to his back, but from a deep incision on his right arm, which punctured a vein.
CHINWE FOSSETT (in court): You stabbed him in the back, correct?
MELISSA TURNER: Correct.
CHINWE FOSSETT: OK.
Melissa Turner: The only thing that I did was the back.
Erin Moriarty: How did he get cut on his right arm?
Melissa Turner: I — I couldn’t tell you that. I have no clue. He could’ve fallen into something; he could’ve done it himself. … And I stabbed him once to get him off of me from strangling me.
Erin Moriarty: Why didn’t you tell the police that he had been trying to strangle you?
Melissa Turner: … because I couldn’t remember at the time. … I had complained multiple times about a headache.
Prosecutor Fossett questioned Melissa about her memories that returned before the trial.
CHINWE FOSSETT (in court): And so today, in 2022, you now claim you had some kind of head injury, correct?
MELISSA TURNER: Umm, yes.
But a crime scene tech testified there was no evidence of head injury.
CHINWE FOSSETT: And now in 2022, you speak of some kind of blackout, correct? Yes?
MELISSA TURNER: Correct.
CHINWE FOSSET: OK.
The jury won’t have to rely just on Melissa’s memories as they weigh the evidence. There’s also that video from inside the couple’s home. Prosecutors say it proves Melissa was the aggressor that night. At 3:38 a.m., Melissa is seen running towards her office. At 3:42 a.m., Matthew walks past the camera, Melissa follows him.
Chinwe Fossett: He’s walking calmly, unarmed in the ADT videos, and she’s following him hunched over angry.
At 4:01 a.m., the video shows Melissa running from the direction of the kitchen; she appears distressed. This is also around the time when the camera across the street picks up audio of screaming and yelling. The next video clip is at 4:08 a.m.
Katherine Fand: … she’s standing at a front door … and she’s seeming like she’s talking to open air … and you can see on her hand, you can see the hint of red … she already has the cut.
Prosecutors say the cut on her hand occurred when Melissa stabbed Matthew — they believe he was still alive at that point. Prosecutors say she could have left then for help or called 911.
Chinwe Fossett: That’s not what she did. She … walks back to …where he is.
Katherine Fand: She is not in reasonable fear of him. That’s what’s clear.
But Melissa’s attorney John Trevena rejects the state’s timeline and disputes what prosecutors say is seen on that video.
John Trevena: I never saw any cut on her hand, and I don’t think it shows that.
The fighting continues, say prosecutors, because around 4:30 a.m., they say the couple moved close to an open window and that security camera across the street recorded a woman’s angry voice.
MELISSA TURNER (neighbor’s security camera audio): “You have the power to do something, so ****ing die.”
CHINWE FOSSETT (in court): You said, 4:33 a.m., “So f***ing die.” Right?
MELISSA TURNER: No. … I have no recollection of that. … I explained my side and why I did what I did (cries).
CHINWE FOSSETT: You’re crying right now. Is that, is that what’s happening? Are you crying right now?
MELISSA TURNER: Do you know what tears look like?
CHINWE FOSSETT: Are you crying because you can just cry on cue?
MELISSA TURNER: I’m crying because, because my life is on the line right now.
Trevena says it’s impossible to clearly understand what Melissa is saying on the neighbor’s security camera recording. And a former FBI audio forensic expert, Bruce Koenig, testified for the defense how he believed sections of the camera audio had been, what he called, “volume enhanced.”
JOHN TREVENA (in court): So, it could be that maybe one voice on the recording was not amplified and that another voice on the recording was greatly amplified.
BRUCE KOENIG: That’s true.
John Trevena: I find it highly suspicious that … Miss Turner’s voice is screeching loud. … But when it came to — Matthew Trussler … you could barely hear mumbling.
Prosecutors deny the audio was manipulated.
Based on the outside camera, Prosecutor Fand says the confrontation ended at 5:11 a.m., when Matthew somehow got out to the pool area through a window.
Katherine Fand: So, the window was actually open. But when he decided to flee from her he … pushed out the screen and went out the window.
Prosecutors say by the time Matthew collapsed by the pool, Melissa would have seen how injured he was.
Katherine Fand: He has already bled all that blood in the kitchen and then gone out.
Chinwe Fossett: She knows that he needs help. And she’s awake and she doesn’t help him.
But Melissa says that’s when she returned to her office and blacked out.
Erin Moriarty: The argument ends sometime around 5 o’clock. But you don’t call 911 until 8:45.
Melissa Turner: Correct, because I was unconscious.
One of the last ADT clips shows Melissa at 8:35 a.m. walking from the direction of her office. In the police report, her hair is described as “messy as if she just woke up.”
John Trevena: That was the most … demonstrative of her not knowing he’s dead. … Because you wouldn’t be go lookin’ for him if you killed him.
Erin Moriarty: Is it possible … that she did pass out there? She’s been drinking, whatever. And had no idea that he was dying at that time?
Katherine Fand: She knew he was dying because she saw him bleeding out.
As the jury began their deliberations, one of the jurors, Donald Goodwin, was feeling the weight of his decision.
Erin Moriarty: How does the first vote go?
Donald Goodwin: Two for guilty in the second-degree.
Erin Moriarty: And where were you?
Donald Goodwin: Unknown.
A JURY DECIDES
Erin Moriarty: What do you hope the jury comes back with?
Melissa Turner (cries): What everyone hopes for, not guilty.
On Feb. 18, 2022, Melissa Turner’s murder trial wrapped up after five days of testimony before Judge Samantha Ward.
JUDGE WARD: Your duty is to determine if the defendant has been proven guilty or not in accord with the law …
Melissa is hoping the jury will believe her story about seeing Matthew alive before blacking out.
Melissa Turner: He was still up and, and moving around…
She says she had no idea of how badly he had been injured.
Melissa Turner: …So the last I remembered of him he was still up.
Erin Moriarty: Isn’t it possible … that there may not have been really — intent to kill anybody. It’s this drunken fight and somebody ends up bleeding to death.
Chinwe Fossett: That’s a homicide.
And Prosecutor Chinwe Fossett says this case is really about domestic violence.
Chinwe Fossett: He was cut and stabbed and left to die. I think that’s the very definition, especially considering that this was by his fiancée.
In Florida, second-degree murder cases are heard by six jurors. In this case, two women and four men — one of them, Donald Goodwin.
Donald Goodwin: You see a young lady and you’re already, like, your stomach drops. You’re like, Lord, just let me do the right thing … But behind the looks of a young lady, the truth was coming out quickly.
Donald Goodwin: When she went to the stand, I think it hurt her, big time. … her tears were so fake. And you can tell.
MELISSA TURNER (in court): I’m crying because I still remember all those places, all those plans …
Donald Goodwin: … She was super angry and super sad. Her emotions were everywhere. I’m like that tells me who she is.
Goodwin, a part time family pastor, says those security camera videos were crucial because of what he says was a lack of other evidence.
Donald Goodwin: I looked at the videos over and over, the ADT videos that’s inside the house. … I seen red on her hands. But I couldn’t use it as evidence because the camera wasn’t crystal clear.
Erin Moriarty: At that point, did you think he had already been stabbed?
Donald Goodwin: Yes.
Donald Goodwin: And I think she snapped.
Erin Moriarty: You don’t believe he was strangling her at the time?
Donald Goodwin: No. … I felt like she had enough … and attacked him.
And there was one clip of the audio recording that convinced Goodwin Melissa knew Matthew was hurt.
Donald Goodwin: … then she said … “What did I do?” And I was, like, that right there tells me you know exactly what’s going on now. … she knew he was gonna die, she knew it, and yet, she called nobody.
And as for Melissa’s claims about hitting her head and blacking out?
Erin Moriarty: You don’t believe that she might’ve passed out?
Donald Goodwin: No. Not at all. … there was no evidence of head injury.
The jury deliberated for seven hours.
COURT CLERK: We the jury find as follows as to the charge … the defendant is guilty of murder in the second degree.
Guilty of the murder of Matthew Trussler.
JENNIFER GILES: I remember Sean squeezing my hand, it was a happy feeling.
John Trevena: She was inconsolable. I mean, it was — it was very difficult. I mean, she was crying profusely.
JUDGE WARD: She will be taken into custody at this time.
On March 18, 2022, Melissa returned to court to learn her sentence. She talked about what she had lost.
MELISSA TURNER (in court, cries) On October 18th, Matthew lost his life, and I lost a man that I loved. I lost my future and my hopes and my dreams.
But Matthew’s family also spoke, struggling with both grief and anger.
JENNIFER GILES: Mattie … 25 years old, wow, so much life still ahead. The life of a son, a brother, a brother-in-law, and an uncle. … Sean … will never see his best friend again. He will never be able to replace you.
MARGARET MCLAUGHLIN: The story that you have contrived has caused me as much pain as his death … If Matthew’s drinking was escalating … it was because of the lifestyle that you involved him in. It was not consistent with who he was and with the way that he was raised.
JUDGE WARD: This jury did not believe her claims of self-defense, nor does this court.
Still, Judge Samantha Ward offered Melissa some mercy, sparing her a life sentence.
JUDGE WARD: Based on the jury’s verdict, you are adjudicated guilty, sentenced to 20.5 years in the Florida State Prison.
Melissa Turner will be eligible for release before she turns 50.
Erin Moriarty: What do you guys miss about Mattie the most?
Jennifer Giles: Oh, my gosh.
Sean Trussler: His laugh probably.
Jennifer Giles: He had a great laugh.
Sean Trussler: He was a good kid, he was … He was just starting to be a man.
One life lost, another ruined on a night juror Goodwin says didn’t have to happen.
Donald Goodwin: Matthew Trussler didn’t have to die. … They could’ve walked away from each other and started a different life. … Melissa Turner chose to kill Matthew Trussler. Do I think it was premediated? Absolutely not. Do I think she’s guilty? Absolutely.
The prosecutor says Matthew Trussler was a victim of domestic violence.
If you or someone you know needs help, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or visit TheHotline.org.
Produced by Asena Basak. Ryan Smith, and Marc Goldbaum are the development producers. Jordan Kinsey is the field producer. Phil Tangel, Wini Dini and George Baluzy are the editors. Anthony Batson is the senior broadcast producer. Nancy Kramer is the executive story editor. Judy Tygard is the executive producer