Ypsi police confirm Julia Niswender’s stepfather is a “person of interest” in her killing… but that doesn’t mean we should expect an arrest anytime soon


It was all over the news today that Ypsilanti police had announced that James Turnquist (seen above), the stepfather of Julia Niswender, is a “person of interest” in her December 2012 murder. What wasn’t in the news, however, was that this was nothing new, and did not indicate that a break had been made in the case. No, as I understand it, Turnquist has been a “person of interest” for years, as he’s never given Ypsilanti detectives a thorough accounting of his whereabouts prior to Niswender’s forced drowning in the bathtub of her Peninsular Place apartment. And, the only reason it came out now is that Detroit Channel 4, in a report last night about Turnquist’s recent arrest on child pornography charges, made the claim that he was also a suspect in his stepdaughter’s murder… a fact that had, up until now, not been made public by the YPD.

So, as much as we might like to think that something has changed, and the arrest of the young EMU student’s murderer may be imminent, the facts, at least as they’ve been explained to me, don’t seem to support that, despite the headlines that Turnquist has just been named a “person of interest.” This isn’t, of course, to say that new evidence may not surface as a result of the child pornography investigation that could help the police to make a case against him for Niswender’s murder. And, of course, it’s possible that, as a result of all of this news coverage, someone could come forward with information about his activities prior to his stepdaughter’s murder that might help Ypsi detectives to break the case. But, as of right now, based on what I’ve heard, there is no new evidence in the case.

Of course, that doesn’t really come through in the television news reports, which are suggesting that the YPD “announced” that Turnquist was a person of interest, when, in fact, they merely confirmed it after it was reported. But, I don’t suppose that we should be surprised that the media would exaggerate the facts of a case where a young woman may have been murdered by her stepfather. The potential for ratings is just too seductive.

For what it’s worth, our friend Katrease Stafford reported in this afternoon’s Detroit Free Press that Julia Niswender’s twin sister says she’s standing behind their stepfather “100 percent,” and doesn’t believe he had anything to do with her sister’s death. (According the statement released by the YPD this morning, other members of Julia’s family, however, “have concerns that Mr. Turnquist has knowledge pertaining to her death.”)

Turnquist has has been jailed on $100,000 bond since his arrest on child pornography charges on February 26. According to the Detroit News, he has been charged with one felony count of possessing sexually-abusive materal involving a child. His probable cause hearing is scheduled in Monroe County District Court at 8:30 AM on March 12. Details of that case have yet to be released.

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  1. Anonymous
    Posted March 5, 2015 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Why are members of her family standing by him if he refuses to tell investigators where he was prior to her murder?

  2. Chaely
    Posted March 5, 2015 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    That last part is too bizarre. Call me a puritan, but I’m not standing behind, next to, or anywhere near anyone knowingly possessing a personal collection of kiddie porn no matter who they’re related to. We’ve all caught enough episodes of SVU to know what that means.

  3. Mr. Y
    Posted March 5, 2015 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    The Channel 7 video is really telling. Watch it until the end, when her step-father talks about the guilt that must be consuming the man who killed her. “Sooner or later, it’s going to get to them. It’s going to eat them up enough that they’re just not going to handle it.” Maybe he’s getting neat that point.

  4. Question
    Posted March 5, 2015 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Was it the Ypsi police investigation that turned up the evidence leading to the arrest for child porn?

  5. Steve Pickard
    Posted March 5, 2015 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Why does it look like he’s wearing Boba Fett’s uniform in the mugshot?

  6. anonymous
    Posted March 5, 2015 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Can you imagine a better outfit for a pedophile, Steve?


  7. comment bot
    Posted March 5, 2015 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    alt-J (∆) Breezeblocks


  8. Dan
    Posted March 5, 2015 at 2:42 pm | Permalink


    I believe that is an anti-suicide smock

  9. Steve Pickard
    Posted March 5, 2015 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    anonymous called it…I was referencing this:


  10. Meta
    Posted September 2, 2015 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    From the Detroit Free Press:

    Vasectomy is new clue in EMU student’s bathtub drowning
    Police released a document Tuesday revealing intimate details of its investigation into the 2012 homicide of Julia Niswender in her off-campus apartment and why detectives consider her stepfather a person of interest.

    Read more:

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