CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – A man has entered a guilty plea in a high-profile murder of a Keystone Heights woman, according to Clay County court records.
Court records show that on March 10, Joe Arthur Turner, 31, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, sexual battery and burglary.
He had been set for trial next month in the death of Jordan Cooper.
By pleading guilty, the death penalty was taken off the table as part of his deal with prosecutors. He’s scheduled to be sentenced Friday morning in Clay County court and faces 55 years in prison.
Cooper disappeared in November 2017. She was 25 years old, but family said she had the mental capacity of a young teenager.
The following month, her body was found hidden in the attic of her home in Keystone Heights. The medical examiner found she died from asphyxia.
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In January 2018, Turner, Cooper’s neighbor, was arrested in the murder and later indicted.
News4JAX Insiders reacted to the plea deal.
“While it will not bring back Miss Cooper, good to read he will be convicted for her murder and her family will not have to endure a trial,” one Insider wrote.
News4JAX on Thursday spoke with Belkis Plata, a criminal defense lawyer not affiliated with this case about how Turner was able to make a deal that took the death penalty off the table.
“It appears there was a motion to suppress that was pending. I don’t know if that’s a reason why this was worked out, but it appears that it could have been because the defense was trying to suppress the evidence that was found that linked Mr. Turner to Miss Cooper,” Plata said. “So obviously if that went away, there would not be a strong case anymore.”
Plata said that had the case gone to trial, Cooper’s mental capacity could have come up.
“I do believe that her mental status could have been used as an aggravator,” Belkis said. “May have been one of the reasons why they elected to seek the death penalty because of the victim’s mental capacity.”
The case plodded through the courts, one of the many affected by the pandemic.