Bowen Turner’s victim’s family breaks silence after prosecutors said to be quiet

The family of a sexual assault victim who died by suicide and whose case was consequently dismissed says they will no longer be quiet.
Published: Jun. 19, 2023 at 6:23 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 19, 2023 at 7:36 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ORANGEBURG, S.C. (WCSC) - The family of a sexual assault victim who died by suicide and whose case was consequently dismissed says they will no longer be quiet after a year of staying silent at the request of the 2nd Circuit Solicitor’s Office.

Dallas Stoller was the second of Bowen Turner’s three alleged victims. Turner is the Orangeburg County man who made headlines nationwide after a Live 5 investigation exposed multiple alleged sexual assaults and dozens of bond violations.

Dallas’ family says the Solicitor’s Office promised to reopen Dallas’ case if they kept quiet and stopped sharing their story.

Now after more than a year of playing by the solicitor’s rules and seeing no movement in the case, they’re breaking their silence.

“It is not our intent to remain silent any longer,” Karl Stoller, Dallas’ dad, says.

Dallas is described to have been a bright and outgoing 20-year-old when she died in 2021. Her family says she died by a self-inflicted wound after she endured bullying and backlash when she accused Turner of sexually assaulting her at a high school party in 2018.

“It was very clear that there are multiple victims that we know about,” Sarah Ford, the Legal Director of the South Carolina Victim Assistance Network, says.

While Turner was being investigated for his first alleged sexual assault, he was charged in Dallas’ case, court records show.

Then, while out on bond for Dallas’ case, Turner was accused of a third sexual assault. Later when he was supposed to be locked down on house arrest, Turner violated bond dozens of times to go to golf courses, restaurants and across state lines, according to court documents.

In that third case, Turner eventually pleaded guilty to assault and battery as part of a plea deal and was sentenced to probation.

Just days ahead of the plea hearing, prosecutors dropped Dallas’ case, saying they couldn’t proceed with the case because Dallas died before she could testify against Turner.

“Sexual assault is an incredibly pervasive crime in our society, and it’s very frustrating to see how victims have been treated.” Ford says.

Dallas’ story and the other victims’ stories, what they endured following the assaults and what their families call a failure of the justice system, incited outrage and sparked headlines nationwide.

The Stollers used the momentum to advocate for Dallas’ case and for victims across the state.

But then, in May of last year, there was silence from the family as the direct result of a message from the 2nd Circuit Solicitor, according to the Stollers.

“[He said] you have to be quiet,” Brette Tabatabai, Dallas’ older sister, says. “[He said] you have to stop talking to the media. You have to stop putting stuff out there and getting people to call.”

Solicitor Bill Weeks told the Stollers prosecutors would reopen the investigation and look into Dallas’ case again if they restrain all the attention on the solicitor’s office and the case, the family says.

“He asked us if we would be willing to see if we can get some of that pressure off, so they can allow themselves to work,” Karl Stoller says.

Knowing the impact they had already made by being outspoken, it was a difficult decision for the family to make, Tabatabai says, but they ultimately acquiesced.

“It’s kind of holding a gun to our heads like, ‘Okay, you do what we say or we’re not going to be able to do our job,’” she says.

The Stollers kept quiet with no interviews, no social media posts, no updates or anything. A family that had once helped lead a rally on the steps of the South Carolina State House was no longer able to speak about their loved one’s case.

Meanwhile, there was near silence on the part of the Solicitor’s Office as well, according to the Stollers.

“We’re here a year later, and we really don’t have any more information as to what’s going to happen with the case other than they’re continuing to investigate,” Ford says.

The only information the family has received, they claim, points to a shoddy investigation from the start—witnesses and videos that weren’t looked into and DNA samples that weren’t taken.

“This is all things that should have been done four-and-a-half, five years ago,” Karl Stoller says.

The family believes being strung along the past year was a way for the Solicitor’s Office to indirectly tell them there was no way for them to prosecute the case.

“It’s the same old thing,” Karl Stoller says. “We’re getting the same lip service we were getting before, and it’s just an excuse as to why they are ultimately going to tell us they can’t do anything. Maybe they’re just trying to break it to us gently.”

After a recent meeting with prosecutors, the Stollers say staying quiet was a waste and a detriment to Dallas’ case and to other victims in the state.

“I really do feel a lot of guilt and I feel like I’ve let people down by being quiet,” Tabatabai says. “I knew better. I knew better than to listen to them. I really, really wanted to believe that they were going to do the right thing.”

In retrospect, they say they believe they should never have remained quiet.

“We should’ve have just kept our voices heard and not let the whole situation fade,” Karl Stoller says. “Obviously we see the results of it now; nothing’s changed.”

A year after making that agreement with the Solicitor’s Office, the family wants to reignite the public conversation and momentum.

“This has never been and will never be completely about Dallas,” Karl Stoller says. “This has opened my eyes to a whole set of problems we have in our state, maybe nationwide, with the way victims are handled. Let’s not run out of gas on that.”

While the Stollers’ hope for Dallas’ case is dwindling, their passion for helping victims is not. They hope others will learn from their mistake, and speak up, using their voice for change.

“Maybe we can’t get justice for [Dallas], but we can in a different way. We can get justice for other victims,” Tabatabai says. “I really hope that everybody knows that you matter. You have a voice; every victim matters.”

Solicitor Bill Weeks provided the following comment when asked for an interview or comment:

My work on this case is ongoing and I really don’t want to comment on my progress.

Turner is currently in the custody of the State Department of Corrections for violating his probation after being hit with multiple other charges since his plea deal in 2021.

SCDC says a hearing was held in May for Turner’s potential July release, but his release was denied. His next possible release date is September 15.

SCDC officials say defendants sentenced under the Youthful Offender Act are not sentenced to a specific number of months or years. The amount of time they spend behind bars is determined by a minimum number of months set out in policy, completion of required programming, and behavior.

Once the active sentence begins, the inmate comes up for internal review in a pre-set number of months.

The Department of Corrections did not specify why Turner’s release was denied during the May 11 hearing.