DOJ files petition to commit and block release of so-called “Halloween Killer,” convicted in death of 9-year-old girl

Gerald Turner (PHOTO: WLUK)

MADISON — The Wisconsin Department of Justice is working to block the release of the so-called “Halloween Killer,” convicted in the death of 9-year-old Lisa Ann French — who kissed her parents goodbye and ran out of the house to trick-or-treat in Fond du Lac in 1973. She never returned home. Her body was found a few days later in a garbage bag that had been tossed in a field.

An autopsy found that she died from shock from being sexually assault.

Her neighbor, Gerald Turner, was convicted of killing her. The case changed Trick-or-Treating in Milwaukee — which now happens during the afternoon instead of at night.

According to a news release from Attorney General Brad Schimel issued Friday, Jan. 26, the DOJ has filed a petition to commit Turner to a civil commitment under Chapter 980. Officials say Turner plans to live in Madison after his release from the Racine Correctional Institution.

Turner was convicted on Feb. 4, 1975 in Fond du Lac County of one count of sexual morality, one count of indecent liberties with a child under age 16 years, one count of abnormal sexual perversion, and one count of second degree murder.

Turner was sentenced to serve 38 years in prison. He was released in 1992 on intensive high-risk community supervision, but then returned to prison in 1992 following a court decision challenging calculation of time served. Turner was again released to parole in 1998, but parole was revoked and Turner returned to prison in 2003 for excessive use of pornography while on community supervision and theft of cable services.

Turner was scheduled to be released from prison on Feb. 1, 2018 — but following the filing of the petition by the DOJ, which argues that Turner is a sexually violent person and is eligible for commitment under Wisconsin statutes, Turner will be detained until a probable cause hearing will occur before the Fond Du Lac County Circuit Court.

As of Feb. 1, Turner’s custody was transferred from the DOC to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services pending a decision on his release and the request by the DOJ to commit him. He’s being held at the Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Facility in Mauston.

Chapter 980 of the Wisconsin Statutes relates to the control, care and treatment of sexually violent persons. Under Wisconsin law, a person may be subject to a civil commitment when the person has been convicted of a sexually violent offense, has a mental disorder, and is dangerous to others because the mental disorder makes it more likely than not he or she will commit further acts of sexual violence. A civil commitment is defined in Wisconsin law as commitment to the custody and care of the Department of Health Services for control, care, and treatment until the person is no longer considered sexually violent.

A petition is only an allegation and a finding of probable cause only allows the state’s case to move forward.

Turner is presumed not to be a sexually violent person unless and until proven in judicial proceedings to be a sexually violent person. The state bears the burden of proof at trial.

Lisa Ann French’s mother, Maryann Gehring, has also created an online petition to keep Turner behind bars.

“Halloween marked the 44th anniversary of Lisa’s death, and to this day, I feel in my heart he will commit another violent sex crime if he is released,” Gehring wrote in the petition. “Turner’s current and prior actions indicate that he is still a dangerous person and should not be released.”