Clayton County police Detective John Gosart testifies Tuesday under direct examination by Clayton County prosecutor Jay Jackson. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)
JONESBORO — The bright pink dress and matching headband worn by the fidgety first-grader were startling contradictions to the descriptions of violence coming out of her innocent smile.
When she was 6, Onysti Turner witnessed the stabbing death of her father, Tyrris Turner. Dustin James Cotton, the brother of Turner’s girlfriend, is charged with murder in the July 30, 2011, death.
Now nearly 9, Onysti Turner took the stand Tuesday afternoon as the state’s star witness against Cotton. Two videotaped statements to police — one given the day after her father died and the other provided June 9, 2012, were shown to jurors.
Police said Turner was arguing with Cotton’s sister, Linda “Channel” Moon, when Cotton intervened. Turner’s daughter was the only witness to the fight among the trio, which began when the makeshift family ordered Chinese food for supper.
“Daddy pushed Dustin two times and Dustin went to the kitchen,” the girl told police in 2012. “He got a knife from that thing there (knife block) and stabbed him. Dustin stabbed Daddy.”
In the middle of questioning by police, the girl suddenly switched to a happier memory.
“The day before this happened, my daddy bought us presents,” she said. “He bought Channel a white teddy bear with chocolate candy. And he bought me a tiara.”
The ordeal that ended in Turner’s death started as Moon was ordering Chinese food to be delivered to the couple’s Arrowhead apartment, said Onysti Turner.
“Daddy was talking to Channel, asking her where she was going,” the child told police on the videotape. “Daddy was mad because she was ignoring him. She went to the door when the food came and they started fighting.”
The child said the arguing escalated when Moon threw a soap bottle at Turner. The couple exchanged shoves and Cotton intervened by shoving Turner, she said. She couldn’t remember who was shoved into the wall but testified that one of the adults was pushed hard enough to damage the sheetrock.
She watched as her father walked outside to sit on the stoop right after being stabbed.
“Daddy told me to go inside but I was scared so I went to the neighbors,” said Onysti Turner. “Channel was telling Dustin to leave before the police got there, to just go so they couldn’t find him.”
Moon asked neighbors to call 911 and took off her shirt to wrap around Turner, said the girl.
“Channel asked him if he was OK,” she said. “Then she asked Dustin why did he do that. Dustin didn’t say anything.”
Cotton, who lived in Norristown, Pa., did leave the scene, said police, and was arrested Sept. 16, 2011. Moon was convicted of lying to police and obstruction because of her actions that day, according to court records.
Under direct examination by Clayton County Assistant District Attorney Jay Jackson, the girl told jurors she can’t get the image of her father being stabbed out of her mind and continues to have nightmares.
Tyrris Turner’s mother, Cynthia Turner, also took the stand Tuesday. Under direct examination by Clayton County Assistant District Attorney Meredith Chafin, Turner testified about making Facebook contact with Cotton before his capture.
Turner said she discovered Cotton had created Facebook and YouTube sites under the pseudonym “Bucky Raw.” Chafin submitted screen shots of the conversations which Turner read out loud.
Turner was emotional as she read what Cotton, as “Bucky Raw,” had written in response to the question about killing Tyrris Turner, whom she called Ty Ty.
“‘Yeah, I killed Ty,’” she read. “‘It felt real goooooooood doing it.’”
In the online conversation, Cotton/Bucky Raw accuses Turner of “working for Red.” She testified that she engaged him online because he was a fugitive and she hoped officials could trace him through his IP address through Facebook.
Defense attorney Charles Evans cross-examined Turner and tried to show jurors she lied about contacting another witness to the stabbing. Turner said she didn’t know the person she was conversing with knew Cotton but couldn’t explain why she asked the person if she knew where he was.
Cotton, who is being held in Clayton County Jail, sat expressionless during the testimony at the defense table. When Turner left the stand to exit the courtroom, she took a few steps toward Cotton. A bailiff directed her around the prosecution’s table on the other side.
As Turner made her way out, she continued to wipe tears from her face and stare at Cotton.
The state rested its case late in the afternoon and Judge Albert Collier sent jurors home. Evans said he plans to present witnesses but has not announced whether Cotton will take the stand. If he is convicted of murder, Cotton faces a mandatory minimum life in prison with the possibility of parole.