August 8, 2022 | By Marie Billow
This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class
Ashley McElroy didn’t get to meet her paternal grandfather until she was six years old, but says he filled a gap not filled by the rest of her family.
Although Norman Turner and his family struggled with some complicated family dynamics, he never let it affect the way he treated his granddaughter.
The family had attempted to navigate the fractured relationships for years – that is, until Ashley was born.
Ashley was the “spittin’ image” of her grandfather, the family would say.
The complexities of the past were soon forgotten. Healing began and relationships mended.
And the rest is history.
Ashley remembers her grandfather as a warm man who always put family first. Despite the complicated family politics and the distance between them, Norman called Ashley nightly to check on her schoolwork and make sure she was behaving.
The two haven’t talked in over two decades.
On November 15, 1999, a murderer cut his life short. The case has never been solved.
One of Ashley’s fondest memories of her grandfather was when he took all the grandchildren to Krystal for dinner. After filling up at the restaurant, Norman took the grandkids to his garage where he worked on racecars in his spare time.
It may sound like a regular day, but it remains in Ashley’s memory.
“He made it all about us,” she said.
Ashley described her grandfather as always fun, loving, and caring.
Norman was a decorated Navy Seal. He never talked much about it – in fact, his family had no idea how far he advanced in his career until they found his collection of medals after he died.
He inspired Ashley to pursue a career in the Navy. The birth of her first child changed her plans; still, she remained inspired, and chose a public service career in law enforcement as a police officer.
Norman was extremely sharp the way a Navy Seal is expected to be. Ashley and the other grandkids made a game of trying to sneak up on him, but he was always unshakeable.
Norman spent many evenings at the World Famous Bull Tavern in Jacksonville, Florida. He would stay until closing to make sure the bartenders were able to get to their cars safely.
On that fateful November night, he was doing just that – watching guard – when Norman noticed his truck lights blinking and went to check it out.
An argument ensued.
Soon after, Norman was shot in the back of the head by an unknown subject, from an unknown distance.
He was 61 years old.
Ashley recalls getting a phone call in the middle of the night and speeding to the hospital with her family. The hospital told them Norman was brain-dead, and a family member made the decision to take him off life support. Ashley said her grandfather took 45 painful minutes to die.
The bartender and the bar owner had been outside with Norman when he was shot, but they don’t recall much. The only description they gave the police was that of two tall black men.
To this day, no one has been charged with the murder of Norman Turner.
Norman’s death left the family in disarray. Ashley recalls it causing a rift between some relatives amidst already tense relationships. It also left a mark on her adolescent life.
“I think I was too young to really understand,” she said.
Ashley was 15 years old at the time and says she began drinking and partying to escape. She struggled with alcoholism until the age of 25.
Turner himself was a battled alcoholic dependency. Ashley recalls him always holding either a beer or a Pepsi in his hand. She said she hadn’t noticed the excess as a child and that it never affected how he treated his family.
“I think he drank to forget,” Ashley said, alluding to possible trauma experienced in the Navy. But through the good and the bad, Norman remained an attentive family man.
She said memories of her grandfather inspired her to get sober.
“I know he wouldn’t want that for me and my kids,” she said.
If you have any information on the unsolved murder of Norman Turner, you are asked to call the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Unit at (904) 630-2172. To remain anonymous and potentially be eligible for a $3,000 reward, call First Coast Crime Stoppers at 1 (866) 845-TIPS.
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