Family angry prosecutors dropped sexual assault case against accused man
ORANGEBURG COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - An Orangeburg County family is taking action after they say prosecutors wrongfully dismissed their daughter’s sexual assault case because she died before she could testify against the man accused of the crime.
The family is also hoping to use their voice and their daughter’s story to enact change across South Carolina and its justice system.
Dallas Stoller was outgoing, warm and well-liked, her family says. She was the president of her senior class in Orangeburg and had an amazing future ahead of her, but Stoller was sexually assaulted in the fall of 2018 and her life was changed forever, according to her family.
Since the alleged assault, it has been a rollercoaster for the Stoller family, as they face challenge after challenge in the legal system and beyond.
Bowen Turner was accused of sexually assaulting Stoller in 2018. While out on bond for that charge, he was accused of sexually assaulting another girl, court documents state. Turner had previously been accused of assaulting a third teen before that, investigators said.
He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge — first-degree assault and battery — in April as part of a deal with prosecutors for one of the three cases. He was sentenced to five years of probation and will not have to register as a sex offender if there are no violations while on probation.
“[It’s] another slap in the face,” Stoller’s mother, Michelle, says. “It’s just not right.”
It’s a slap in the face, one victim says, because court documents show Turner violated the conditions of his bond nearly 50 times in just a few months to play golf and go to restaurants.
A slap in the face, Michelle Stoller says, because of the call they received saying Turner has a bright future and they shouldn’t ruin that by talking publicly about the case.
A slap in the face, Stoller’s sister says, because the South Carolina justice system has failed them all time and time again since the very first alleged assault and since Dallas Stoller’s death last year.
“It’s just a continuous fail on these girls,” Brette Tabatabai, Stoller’s sister, says. “It’s not just Dallas. It’s on Chloe, [the third victim], and the girl before.”
But now, despite the plea deal and the phone calls and justice system failures, they’re not going to be silenced, the Stoller family says. They say they are moving forward to take action and fight, on behalf of Dallas, Turner’s other two victims, and everyone in South Carolina.
“It’s not just one case. It’s part of a bigger picture,” Stoller’s dad, Karl, says. “We’re going to push forward to get what we’ve got to get done.”
To begin, the Stollers are calling on the Second Circuit Solicitor’s Office to re-open Stoller’s case. At the beginning of April — two days before Turner’s plea in the third sexual assault case — the solicitor’s office told the family they were dropping Stoller’s case. Tabatabai says prosecutors say they couldn’t continue because Dallas wasn’t alive to testify.
“It’s not fair to close it,” she says. “There are options. Does it make it harder? Yes, it does make it harder to prosecute, but it’s not impossible. The excuse that it’s a waste of time or money is unacceptable.”
The family started a petition to urge the solicitor’s office to reopen her case. In five days, it grew to nearly 7,000 signatures online. They are also asking people to call the solicitor’s office and flood them with requests to open the case.
“[I want people to] continue to voice their frustration, continue to voice that Dallas, even though she’s not here, [the solicitor’s office] shouldn’t be taking her voice away,” Tabatabai says.
The Stollers are also pushing for prosecutors to face consequences for what they’re calling major failures.
“In my opinion, there was definitely some unlawful circumstances that definitely need to be handled,” Karl Stoller says. “And me personally, I’m not going to let that go. I’m going to keep bringing that up.”
The solicitor’s office did not follow a court order, the Stollers claim, saying that order stated Turner should immediately be taken into custody if he violates his bond conditions. The solicitor’s office knew at the beginning of March that Turner had violated his bond dozens of times, according to court documents. But instead of turning him in ahead of a bond hearing as the order states, the Stollers say solicitors cut a deal.
“[The Deputy Solicitor] had a duty to act, and he had a legal obligation to follow through,” Karl Stoller says. “There should be consequences to those failures.”
Stoller’s case is the family’s main concern, they say, but they don’t want to stop there, because they call it one of many examples of injustices in the state.
They are concerned about GPS monitoring, victims being silenced, legislators appointing judges who later preside over their cases, well-connected families getting special treatment and more.
“If everyone is not held accountable across the board, nothing will ever change,” Tabatabai says. “There is no halfway right and halfway wrong. It’s either right or wrong.”
The Stollers hope to use their new platform as a voice for Dallas and for other victims in the state, and they hope to ultimately use her case as an impetus for change in South Carolina.
“We don’t want this to be a fleeting moment in time or 15 minutes of fame,” Karl Stoller says. “We want this to have a life-changing impact for the next generation.”
The Second Circuit Solicitor’s Office has not responded to multiple requests for comment since the beginning of April.
Copyright 2022 WCSC. All rights reserved.