Teens On TikTok Might Have Just Helped Solve A Decades-Old Disappearance

Alissa Turney's step-father alleged she ran away in 2001, but thanks to her sister's TikToks, he's just been charged with her murder.

The Turney Family

by Georgia Aspinall |
Updated on

As we explored this week with NickTok, TikTok is home to an abundance of niches, one of the most intriguing? CrimeTok. That is, content creators commenting on or highlight popular criminal investigations from days gone by. Most recently, it seems one of those has resulted in a murder charge in the US.

Sarah Turney, 31, from Arizona, created a TikTok account to air details about her sisters disappearance over two decades ago in 2001. Back then, when 17-year-old Alissa Turney went missing, the girls stepfather Michael Turney told police she’d ran away, but Sarah never quite believed him.

She went on to launch a podcast, blog, Facebook group, Instagram account and finally, her TikTok account, all in an effort to highlight her sisters case and share details about their father including incriminating conversations they’d had and interactions with police.

Now, Michael has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder, Maricopa County attorney Allister Adel announced at a press conference. While Adel did not state what led to his arrest, NBC News reports that she did confirm that the indictment was issued by a grand jury.

Alissa was last seen on the 17th May 2001 after being picked up from Paradise Valley High School at 11am. He told police at the time that they’d argued on the way home and said she went straight to her room when they arrived. He alleges that he left the house at 1pm to pick up Sarah, but when they arrived home found a note in Alissa’s room that she was running away to California.

Police eventually concluded there was no foul play involved in her disappearance, despite several family members requesting further investigation. In 2008, the case was reopened after allegations of sexual abuse were made against Michael, causing police to search the house they family lived at when Alissa disappeared. They found video tapes dating back decades that included surveillance footage of Alissa at work leading up to her disappearance.

They also found homemade explosive devices and assault rifles, with NBC reporting it was the largest stockpile of explosives discovered in the history of the Phoenix Police Department. Michael pleaded guilty to possessing the explosives and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, released in 2017.

Despite the investigation into Alissa’s disappearance going cold, Sarah has never given up on it, and most recently took to TikTok to share the videos found by police. She says ‘there was at least one hidden camera in our home though many of [Alissa’s] friends say there were more’ and reports police also finding contracts ‘our father had Alissa sign stating that she was never abused.’

She also shared snippets of her podcast about the disappearance, which features clips of her confronting Michael and him replying ‘I’ll confess to anything you want so long as I get the lethal injection within 10 days’.

After her videos received more than 21 million views and countless shares, Sarah attributes the attention the case has received on TikTok to Michael’s arrest. ‘I’m shaking and I’m crying. We did it you guys. He’s been arrested. Omg 😭 thank you. #justiceforalissa Never give up hope that you can get justice. It took almost 20 years but we did it,’ she tweeted.

It seems much like millennial women’s obsession with true crime podcasts, Gen Z seems to have adopted our sensibilities. And with their furore and passion alongside it, it’s actually leading to real results.

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