A woman who is convinced her father killed her missing sister has turned to TikTok to demand justice nearly 20 years after her half-sibling vanished without a trace.
Sarah Turney, who is now in her 30s, was just 12 years old when her 17-year-old sister Alissa Turney went missing on May 17, 2001, the last day of her junior year at Paradise Valley High School in Phoenix, Arizona.
They were living with Sarah’s father, Michael Turney, who had legally adopted her older sister after their mother, Barbara Strahm, died of cancer. Sarah has been working tirelessly to prove that her dad was involved in Alissa’s disappearance.
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Viral plea for justice: Sarah Turney, 31, from Phoenix, Arizona, has turned to TikTok to solve her sister Alissa Turney’s disappearance nearly 20 years after she vanished
Looking back: Sarah was just 12 years old when her 17-year-old sister Alissa (pictured) vanished on May 17, 2001, the last day of her junior year at Paradise Valley High School
On the day Alissa went missing, Sarah was enjoying her last day of 7th grade on a class field trip to a nearby water park.
Michael had told police that had picked up his stepdaughter early from school, taken her to lunch, and dropped her off at home before he discovered she was gone.
Speaking with NBC News’ Dateline, Sarah said that her older sister’s bedroom was unusually messy that day. Inside, they found her cellphone and a note in Alissa’s handwriting saying she was running away to California.
When Michael reported Alissa missing to the Phoenix Police Department, she was classified as a runaway.
James Turney, one of Michael’s three older sons, told Dateline that he didn’t like the way his father was raising his younger sisters, saying that ‘something was not right with him.’
He recalled that a couple of months before Alissa went missing, she told him that she was afraid of their father and wanted to leave. He initially thought she had run away, but he and his siblings began to question her disappearance over the next year.
Home life: At the time of her disappearance, they were living with Sarah’s father, Michael Turney (right), who had legally adopted Alissa (left)
According to Sarah, Alissa had left behind $1,800 in her bank account, all of her makeup, and her cellphone, things she believes her sister would have taken with her if she had run away.
Sarah and James are also both convinced that Alissa would have eventually contacted someone after she left, which she never did.
Seven years after Alissa went missing, allegations of sexual abuse and near-obsessive control of her by Michael led the police to search their home in December 2008.
Police were shocked to find 19 high-caliber assault rifles, two handmade silencers, a van filled with gasoline cans, and 26 handmade explosive devices.
They also discovered a 98-page manifesto, titled ‘Diary of a Madman Martyr,’ and two decades worth of videotapes, including surveillance footage from inside the house, but nothing from the day Alissa disappeared.
Loss: The sisters’ mother, Barbara Strahm, died of cancer when Alissa was eight years old
Close as can be: Sarah said her half-sister was like a mother to her when she was growing up
Mystery: Alissa was classified as a runaway for years after she went missing
In a 2009 interview with ABC News, Michael admitted that he planned on taking his own life to draw attention to Alissa’s case, but he claimed the bombs were planted in his home by the police.
He also denied allegations that he had sexually abused his stepdaughter.
Michael pleaded guilty to possessing 26 unregistered pipe bombs in March 2010 and was released in 2017.
That October, Sarah saw her father for the first time in years, hoping to find out what happened to her sister. She claims to have a recording of the conversation, which she has posted on TikTok.
In the clip, the man she insists is her father, tells her he’d give her ‘all the honest answers’ she wants to hear at his deathbed. He also allegedly agreed to confess to everything if the state would give him a lethal injection within 10 days.
Stunned: Sarah, who is pictured with her father at Disneyland for her 18th birthday, didn’t believe he was involved until she heard allegations that he had been sexually abusing Alissa
No leads: When police searched their home in 2008, they found assault rifles, silencers, and handmade explosive devices. Michael has denied sexually abusing and killing Alissa
When she went to the authorities, she was told he couldn’t be prosecuted without a body or an official confession to the police. She was advised to take Alissa’s case to the media to renew attention to it.
Sarah, who has a full-time marketing job, uses every free moment to investigate and raise awareness for her sister’s disappearance.
In addition to reaching out to local and national media outlets, she has a number of social media accounts dedicated to finding justice for Alissa.
In 2019, she launched her own podcast, ‘Voices For Justice,’ in which she details her family history and events leading up to Alissa going missing.
Platform: Sarah has been working to prove her dad was involved in Alissa’s disappearance and started a TikTok account in late April to draw attention to the case
Viral: Her account has more than 679,000 followers, and footage from a home video of Alissa calling Michael a ‘pervert’ in 1997 has been viewed 17.9 million times
Clues? Sarah recently shared footage from a home video that was filmed by Michael in March 2000 and shows Alissa in a swimming pool
She is now sharing her story on TikTok as an attempt to reach a younger audience who isn’t familiar with her sister’s case.
Sarah uploaded her first TikTok video on April 28 with the caption: ‘When your Dad killed your sister and your family hates you for fighting for his prosecution.’
‘It’s not easy being the disappointment in the family, but someone had to do it. So here the f**k I am,’ she says in the short clip, which has been viewed more than 1.4 million times.
In another video, which has also been viewed over a million times, she gives an abridged version of what happened after Alissa disappeared in 2001 and encourages people to check out the full story on her podcast.
Sarah has also shared VHS footage from her father’s home movies, including a clip that she had filmed in 1997 — four years before her sister disappeared.
In the video, they are outside with their father when Alissa yells, ‘Sarah, Dad’s a pervert.’ Michael moves to take the camera from Sarah, and right before he shuts it off, he calls Alissa a ‘stupid moron.’
Getting help: Sarah believes TikTok may be the key to solving Alissa’s case
Alissa is pictured at age 17 (left) and age progressed to 32 (right). Anyone with information is asked to call the Phoenix Police Department Missing Persons Unit at (602) 262-6141
The clip has been viewed more than 17.9 million times since it was posted.
Sarah has also used the video-sharing platform to crowdsource information. She recently shared footage from a home video that was filmed by Michael in March 2000 and shows Alissa in a swimming pool.
‘I need help!’ she captioned the clip. ‘Someone said Alissa could be using sign language in this video? If you know, please send a message or comment.’
Sarah’s TikTok account has more than 679,000 followers and she believes it may be the key to solving Alissa’s case.
‘Believe it or not, it has become an important outlet for Alissa’s story. I’ve received more interest in this case from that app in the past month than the last 10 years,’ she told Dateline.
‘This is not going away and I’m going to make sure it never does. I still think of her as my tough older sister who taught me to be tough. Now, I need to continue to be tough and use that to fight for the justice she deserves. She deserves her day in court. And I’m determined to give her that.’
Anyone with information about Alissa’s disappearance is asked to call the Phoenix Police Department Missing Persons Unit at (602) 262-6141, Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS, or email [email protected]