The Crimes of Shirley Turner, Part Three: The Murder of Dr. Andrew Bagby
After Shirley Turner's failed suicide attempt things truly and completely went off the rails.
In 1998 Andrew Bagby moved to St. John's for medical school. It was at Memorial University's school of medicine that Andrew would meet Shirley Turner.
Before they met, Andrew was engaged to a young woman who flew with him to St. John's but the relationship eventually broke down and the two decidedly amicably to dissolve their engagement. This woman will later factor prominently in the understanding of Turner's path to murder.
By 1999, Andrew Bagby and Shirley Turner were a couple. Turner was nearly thirteen years older than Bagby, which may or may not have played a role in her ability to control and manipulate him as their relationship grew.
By all accounts, Bagby was a kind and caring person. He spent time with Turner's children when they visited and even gave away his computer to her son.
The young woman to whom Bagby had been engaged remained in St. John's and remained close with him. The woman has stated that Bagby helped her figure out what she wanted to do with her life — she too was studying medicine— and that they remained in contact until his death. Shirley Turner, as you can imagine, did not deal well with this.
Her interactions with the young woman have been described in the official report as "vitriolic," though there were times when the two were carefully pleasant to each other. As Turner’s mood swings worsened so too did her ability to be amicable with the woman she perceived as being a threat to her relationship. Turner would routinely accuse the woman of trying to steal Bagby from her, leaving unhinged voice messages and openly threatening her.
On one occasion, after Bagby’s parents, Kathleen and David, invited the woman to a family function, Turner escalated things even further. By now the young woman had completely moved on and was romantically involved with another man, but Turner didn't care. She cornered her in a room and made wild accusations before confronting her again a few months later, but this time to apologize for what she had said. Another example of Turner’s mood swings.
By 2000, Andrew Bagby completed medical school and was looking at options for his post-education residency, and eventually found an arrangement in Syracuse, New York. Shirley Turner decided to move south as well, though not to New York. She accepted a position with Trimark Physicians Corporation of Fort Dodge where she would be placed in the Sac City clinic owned by the company. It is important at this stage to remember that Turner wanted to be in medicine chiefly for the financial benefits, and her salary with Trimark is perhaps the main reason she chose to go to Sac City and not join her partner in Syracuse. Her initial compensation was estimated to be $171,325.00 USD. That's roughly a quarter of a million in 2019 dollars.
The long-distance relationship arrangement did not exactly do wonders for Turner's mental state. Reports infer that Bagby may have broken off or attempted to slow down the relationship, stating
"Apparently Dr. Turner and Dr. Bagby departed Newfoundland together with the intention of continuing their romantic relationship in the United States. While somesemblance of a relationship appears to have continued after the summer of 2000, theirs was a long distance romance. The entire time each of them resided in the United States - a period of about 14 months - they lived approximately one thousand miles apart."
Between July of 2000 — when Bagby settled in Syracuse — Turner is said to have visited him seven times and had him come visit her just once. This and the fact that she footed the bill for nearly all the travel is perhaps indicative of the one-sided nature of the relationship at this stage. Still, things were at least peaceful until a visit Turner made to Bagby's apartment in May 2001.
This meeting was both upsetting and bizarre. On the 29th of May at 8:15 AM local time, Shirley Turner left Bagby's apartment and, for reasons that escape logical examination, called him to inform him that she had forgotten to lock the apartment's security door. This door is all that prevented a would-be burglar from accessing the interior of the building but even so it was only Bagby and Turner had keys to the apartment.
When Bagby got home he eventually, he realized that several of his belongings were missing. These items included a laptop computer, a lighter, his cheque book, a Palm Pilot, and his collection of movies and CDs; all items of a personal attachment. Charges were never laid in the theft, you can guess who made off with Bagby's things. Police have stated that there was no sign of forced entry, no witnesses reporting shady behaviour, and no indication that any of the security doors had been tampered with. The only people who had access to the building were those with security key cards or, in Turner's case, those who had been in the building that morning.
This was not the extent of Turner's increasingly worrying behaviour. A few months before her passive burglary, she flew her now nearly adult children to Iowa where the group would travel to California to visit Bagby's parents. After two of the children missed their connecting flight in Toronto, they eventually made it to California. Turner was agitated with the children, getting into a physical altercation with her eldest daughter and went so far as slapping her.
By the summer of 2001, about a year out from Andrew Bagby's murder, Turner's behaviour was beginning to catch up with her. Roughly a year after accepting the position with Trimark — who had expected her to fulfill a contract of roughly ten years in Sac City — Turner abruptly quit and moved south to Council Bluffs, Iowa. Having taken several advances of her salary from Trimark she now owed them just shy of $160,000 USD.
Turner moved into an apartment in Council Bluffs and found work at a family medicine practice despite not having a license to practice in this jurisdiction.
Turner had become paranoid. During a visit in September of 2001, Bagby's ex-fiancé called, as was normal, since as we stated earlier, they had remained in contact. Turner answered the phone and informed the woman that she was pregnant by Andrew (she was not at this time) and she was intending to have an abortion after the pair attended a wedding. However, when Turner spoke to the woman in mid-October, she informed her that she was keeping the imaginary baby.
Ironically, it was during the trip to a wedding that Shirley Turner would, in fact, become pregnant with Andrew Bagby’s child.
On October 16, 2001, Shirley obtained a permit to buy a firearm and then bought a semi-automatic .22 calibre handgun. This is the weapon that would be used to murder Andrew Bagby a year later. Both before and after her October 2001 visit to Andrew, Shirley received training in the handling of the firearm. Her instructor noted that the gun was of poor quality and had a telltale signature in that would not properly feed ammunition into the chamber, resulting in the accidental ejection of live rounds.
Long before Turner would murder Bagby, she reportedly had a conversation with a friend in Newfoundland. This friend, allegedly, urged her to buy a gun when she moved to the United States for "protection." Though Turner did not purchase a firearm until October 2001 when she was living in Council Bluffs.
Turner would again travel to spend time with Bagby in late October 2001, and she stayed until November 3, just two days before her medical license would be valid in Council Bluffs. This visit was the trigger that took Shirley Turner from controlling and abusive to murderous.
During the visit, Turner became convinced that Bagby was sleeping with a clerk in radiology as well as a blond doctor he worked with. He was now living in Latrobe, Pennsylvania after completing his residency in Syracuse, working for a family medicine practice. The pair argued loudly, though not to the point of physical violence. At some point between October 26 and November 3, the radiology clerk received two anonymous phone calls that are confirmed to have been from Turner. The first instructed the clerk to go to the local library, which she did. She found nothing and no one and returned home soon after to find a message on her answering machine. The message, from Turner, instructed the clerk to "ask Dr. Bagby about the beautiful blonde lady doctor he's been seen with." She went on to say that Andrew Bagby "hurts people."
Bagby had indeed asked the clerk out on a date, and he told this to Turner during her visit. Shirley would later tell police that this upset her because the couple had “a don't ask don't tell” understanding when it came to this kind of thing.
On November 3, the day Bagby was supposed to see the clerk, he drove Turner to the airport where they had lunch before her flight to Council Bluffs. Bagby ended the relationship during this meal.
While she was travelling, he went to a drug store in Latrobe where he bought a box of condoms, which were stamped with the manufacturer's lot number. This box would later be found in Turner's Council Bluffs apartment.
Things take a dark turn here. On November 5, 2001, Andrew Bagby was completing his morning rounds. Across the street in his Latrobe apartment was Shirley Turner, going through his things, and finding the box of condoms, likely the final trigger for her.
Prior to this, Bagby's supervisor noticed that he was visibly agitated. He mentioned that Turner had been pounding on his door early that morning and that he'd agreed to meet her in Keystone national park.
Advised not to go, Bagby agreed to meet his supervisor around 7:30 PM that evening for a social event, but said he would, in fact, meet Turner as well, with a mind to permanently ending the relationship. He must have been feeling desperate after the weeks of threatening behaviour and erratic actions, and perhaps had he been in a more fortified state of mind he would not have found himself agreeing to this meeting.
The two former lovers met in the park. Turner called ahead to Council Bluffs with her tried and true migraine excuse and advised that she would be in the following day, November 6, after her headache subsided. While she waited for the evening, she browsed eBay and returned emails. She also had with her the .22 calibre handgun and a box of ammunition.
Sometime after 6:10 PM, most likely 8:30 PM according to investigators, Andrew Bagby was shot dead in the Keystone parking garage.
Both his and Turner's vehicles were seen at roughly 6:00 PM by a hunter who was walking home, though he saw neither Shirley Turner nor Andrew Bagby. Investigators place the time of death at 8:30 based on a phone call Tuner made from Cleveland three hours later, which is the length of time it would have taken to drive from the park to that area. Bagby had been shot five times, with a sixth bullet found ejected live from the gun used to kill him.
Shirley Turner, for her part, made her way back to Council Bluffs, calling Bagby's parents several times over the next few days asking if they had heard from him in an effort to keep up her façade. Investigators were quickly putting their case together during this time, identifying that the shell casings were for the type of handgun owned by Turner and the live round they found was of the same brand she had recently purchased.
Shirley Turner was smart, however. She managed to get rid of the firearm (it has never been located) and turned in old ammunition manufactured by a different company while cooperating with police. She was fast becoming the sole focus in the investigation of the murder of Andrew Bagby, but she was managing to stay just barely ahead for now.
She fed the police lie after lie about her movements during the day of and the days leading up to Andrew's murder. She said she had not left Council Bluffs and was instead bedridden with a migraine for much of the weekend as well as Monday, November 5, the day of the murder. She also lied about her gun being stolen. To the investigator's knowledge, the gun had been disposed of between Pennsylvania and Iowa as Shirley drove home after the murder.
Turner met with Iowan detectives for questioning in her apartment, but she gave up nothing. It was during this interview that she turned over her ammunition — which was old and not to be used on the advice of her firearms instructor as it was of low quality — and explained that she hadn't seen her gun since October 25.
Eventually, Pennsylvanian detectives made the journey to Council Bluffs to interview Turner and her attorney, but she abruptly stopped cooperating. The visit did prove useful, however, as an interview with her firearms instructor revealed that Turner had been using the same brand of ammunition found at the crime scene and that her weapon would often eject live rounds. That, plus statements from Bagby's coworkers placed Turner in Latrobe on the day of the murder, meant the circumstantial evidence was piling up. Perhaps the most enlightening thing they learned was that Turner had a shooting lesson scheduled for November 5, but she did not show up.
The only physical evidence detectives turned up were some MapQuest print outs and the box of condoms matching the lot number that was stamped on the box purchased by the deceased.
As things began spiraling out of control, Shirley Turner unveiled a new lie for investigators. The gun was not stolen or missing, she told them, and she had in fact given it to Bagby. It is unclear if investigators even entertained this possibility. The police did manage to miss what might have prevented any further tragedy, however.
Shirley revealed to a former colleague in Nova Scotia during a telephone call that she was, in fact, the last person to see Andrew Bagby alive, and that she was with him in Keystone park where she gave him the gun. Police searched her home and took a pair of boots and some *checks note* dryer lint? What they missed was sitting on the edge of Turner's bed; the clothes she was wearing while she was with Andrew Bagby in Latrobe. Perhaps those clothes would have been the physical evidence police needed to move on Turner before she could act. She added during that call that she was considering leaving the United States permanently. Remember that dual citizenship?
Stay tuned for the conclusion of this story, which has a deep and unfortunate connection to Newfoundland. To read Parts one and two, click here.