Couple from Sanger murdered in SoCal

FRESNO, Calif.

Sanger residents Leamon and Robyn Turnage were killed late last week in a home invasion attack in Hawthorne, which is located near LAX.

While staying at their brother in-law's home last week someone strangled them in a vicious attack. The crime has shocked and saddened people there and also here in the Valley.

Pastor David Butimore: "Whenever we'd have potlucks, something like that and they were in town they of course would be a part and sharing that."

Reporter: "Did they bring good items and good dishes out?"

Pastor: "They tend to."

Pastor David Butimore remembers the times he spent with 69-year-old Leamon Turnage and his 57-year-old wife Robyn Turnage at their church in northeast Fresno.

LA County Sheriffs deputies found the couple's bodies bound and gagged last Friday. Officials believe 53-year-old John Ewell killed the couple after posing as a utility repairman to gain access into the home.

A break in the case came when detectives reviewed this video of someone trying to use the couple stolen ATM cards. That video led them to Ewell.

"He certainly left a trail for us to follow and we consider ourselves fortunate in that regard, but obviously unfortunate in the sense that he was still able to murder two people before we were able to find him." said Lt. Gary Tomatani of the LA County sheriff's Department.

News of the Turnage tragedy spread quickly to the Valley. Butimore knew the couple before he became pastor of the First Missionary Baptist Church in 2001 and says other members of their tight knit congregation were shocked to hear the news during Sunday's service.

"They were hurting. And they were in disbelief because of what had happened because of the sudden shock. And the means in which they passed." said Butimore.

He describes the Turnages as a faithful couple who loved their church and their three children.

"He was always happy go lucky, and just a real joy to be around. And Robyn had a very gentle sweet nature and as a couple they had a wonderful relationship together." said Butimore.

Action news went to the Turnages home in Sanger. Family members did not want to talk on camera but one son in-law says they are in the process of planning their parents' funeral.

Pastor Butimore is also helping with the funeral arrangements. Family members are now deciding whether services will take place here at this church or down in Los Angeles where Leamon's father and sister are also buried.

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.