On Oct. 18, 2019, Melissa Turner frantically called 911 saying she found her fiancé, Matthew Trussler, laying in a pool of blood on the patio of their suburban Tampa, Florida, home. “We had a lot of drinks last night and we went to bed drunk,” Turner told the 911 operator. “… woke up this morning and he was bloody and outside this morning.”
Meeting on an app
Turner told “48 Hours,” they had met on Tinder in April 2017. From that moment their relationship blossomed into an engagement. But, in October 2019, authorities escorted Melissa to the sheriff’s office for additional questioning.
Melissa’s police interrogation
A couple of hours after that frantic 911 call, investigators interviewed Turner about their drunken night. Melissa says she and Trussler had been drinking and she eventually fell asleep. She says she woke up and found Matthew dead. However, she didn’t know that investigators had been tipped off about a surveillance camera that captured more than what she revealed.
An important clue
While Turner was at the sheriff’s office, Det. Ryan LaGasse canvassed the neighborhood for clues. He says he noticed a neighbor’s surveillance camera that was pointing directly at the couple’s home and decided to see if it had critical information. When the owner shared the footage, he heard sounds of a yelling from two voices. One of the voices, which sounded female, said “so fing die!” Detective LaGasse immediately shared this with other investigators.
The couple’s injuries
When Trussler’s body was examined, the medical examiner said he had a defensive wound on his right forearm, a large laceration to his chest, a small cut to the right shoulder, and a large wound on his back that is consistent with a stab wound. The medical examiner noted the cause of death as “incised wound to arm with perforation of cephalic vein.” Turner had a cut on her hand.
Seeking the truth
Back at the sheriff’s office, investigators asked Turner about the video displaying sounds of an argument from her house. At first she said, “I have no memory of any argument…” However, a few hours into the investigation Melissa’s story changed completely. She could now remember what unfolded between them.
Turner told investigators Trussler woke her up and he was still intoxicated. She was angry from being woken up and they began to argue. Melissa says Matthew was holding a knife and she tried to grab it and things escalated. “If it was an accident, then I would have called 911, and not just let him die,” Turner told investigators.
Arrest for murder
Within the same day of that frantic 911 call Turner placed, authorities arrested her for second degree murder with weapon. She was taken to the local jail.
When Matthew Trussler’s family heard the news, they were in shock. Matthew’s older brother Sean and his fiancé, who also lived near Matthew and Melissa, immediately had their suspicions. “She took Mattie long before she took him forever,” Sean Trussler told “48 Hours.”
Pictured from left: Matthew’s mother Margaret, brother Sean, Sean’s fiancé Jennifer and Matthew Trussler.
Cameron Walega, a man who says he dated Turner, recalled her interest in fitness since she lost 100 pounds. He also remembers when she created a second blog with sexually explicit content.
Turner’s second blog featured her cosplaying as various characters, such as Daphne from “Scooby Doo” and Misty from “Pokemon,” while engaging in sexual acts according to her ex-boyfriend Cameron Walega. He says he noticed a change in her personality shortly after starting that blog. “And the more and more success that she found, the more and more unstable she became,” he told “48 Hours”. Eventually the couple parted ways.
The trial begins
On Feb. 14, 2022, two years after Matthew Trussler’s death, Melissa Turner went on trial for murder. Turner’s attorney, John Trevena, said this is a case of self-defense. “She did have a history of abuse and that there was abuse in this relationship, and that she acted in self-defense.”
However, prosecutors didn’t believe that narrative. “I think she was intoxicated and I do think she went far beyond anything she thought she would do,” Assistant District Attorney Chinwe Fossett told “48 Hours.” “Maybe she was just so frustrated with his drinking … that she harms him so badly that he ends up dying.”
Melissa takes the stand
Turner decided to testify at the trial. She described Trussler’s issues with alcohol. That night his alcohol level was nearly five times the legal limit in Florida. She also described his strange behavior in the past. “He would stare off at some corner … and he would tell me that ‘there’s a demon standing right there.'”
Despite not remembering how Trussler ended up with wounds in various parts of his body, Turner said she could only remember stabbing him once in the back. “I stabbed him once to get him off of me from strangling me.”
An expert’s testimony
A key piece of evidence was the neighbor’s surveillance footage that capture sounds of an argument from Melissa and Matthew’s home. Audio expert Bruce Koenig testified that sections of the audio had been volume enhanced. Defense attorney John Trevena believed the audio had been tampered with. “I find it highly suspicious that…Ms. Turner’s voice is screeching loud. But when it came to, you know, Matthew Trussler … you could barely hear mumbling.”
On Feb. 18, 2022, jurors deliberated for seven hours before reaching a decision. Melissa Turner was found guilty of murder in the second degree.
Donald Goodwin, who was one of the jurors, said he thought Melissa had snapped. “… she knew he was gonna die, she knew it, and yet, she called nobody,” he told “48 Hours.”
A month after the verdict, on March 18, 2022, Turner returned to court to receive her sentencing.
“Based on the jury’s verdict, you are adjudicated guilty, sentenced to 20.5 years in the Florida State Prison,” Judge Samantha Ward told Melissa in court.
Trussler’s sister-in-law, Jennifer Giles, believes justice was served. “I will say that is justice to a degree,” she told “48 Hours.”
Sean Trussler says he misses his brother. “He was a good kid. He was just starting to be a man.”
Juror Donald Goodwin says both lives were ruined that night. “Matthew Trussler didn’t have to die,” he told “48 Hours.” “They could’ve walked away from each other and started a different life.”