Family: Woodburn bank bombers innocent

Family: Woodburn bank bombers innocent »Play Video
Joshua and Bruce Turnidge (Photo illustration)

SALEM, Ore. – Thursday marked five years since the deadly bombing at a Woodburn bank.

Woodburn Police Capt. Tom Tennant and Oregon State Police Senior Trooper Bill Hakim died when a device thought to be a hoax exploded inside a West Coast bank branch. Woodburn Police Chief Scott Russell suffered critical injuries, but he survived.

A father and son, Bruce and Joshua Turnidge, were convicted in the bombing. Both received the death penalty. On Your Side Investigator Anna Canzano talked with Janet Turnidge for her first ever sit-down interview about what it's like to have a husband and son both on death row. Anna also wound up on the phone with Bruce Turnidge.

He still maintains that he and his son are innocent, that they weren't anywhere near the bombing and had nothing to do with making it. It's a family that has remained united in this process despite all that's happened, and the prison bars that separate them.

Janet Turnidge describes the night police came to her home to arrest her husband Bruce. She says she didn't know who was outside.

"My normal way to react would be to walk to the door with my hand down with my weapon. I did not do that this time," said Turnidge. "My father was a policeman, I've got two brothers who are policemen, my uncle was a policeman. I know you're not supposed to just open the door and you don't just take people at face value."

Anna met with Janet at her mother-in-law's home in Salem along with Bruce's brothers and granddaughter. It was a living room full of people who believe Bruce and Josh were unfairly depicted by prosecutors during their trial.

For example, a witness testified that Bruce's hero was Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

Janet says that's simply not true.

"Bruce's honest feelings were it was horrible, horrible thing that happened, that McVeigh was worse than scum, that he deserved anything that happened to him," said Janet.

Mid-conversation, the phone rang.

It was Bruce calling from death row.

"People just have to look at the facts in this case, and when they look at the facts, it's going to be very apparent that Josh and I could not, it simply was not possible for us to have done what the state claimed that we did," said Bruce.

Turnidge told Anna he wanted her to review the transcripts and evidence from his case.

She asked him about his dynamic with his son in prison. During the trial, Josh Turnidge admitted buying materials used to build a bomb but said he didn't know his dad was planning to use it to rob a bank.

Anna asked: "Do you get to see Josh, do you talk to Josh?"

Bruce replied: "Oh yeah, I see him all the time."

Anna followed up: "Do you talk with him?"

He answered: "Sure."

"I just wondered what the relationship was like between the two of you given some of the testimony he gave," Anna asked.

Bruce said: "He's apologized to me. He said he did wrong."

Multiple times in Anna's conversation with the Turnidges, their faith comes up. She asked Bruce whether he can face God someday, with honesty in his heart, and say he had no part in the deaths of Tom Tennant and Bill Hakim.

"Well, I will say this. Yes I can. On the other hand, God already knows all about it. But yes, I'll be able to face Him knowing full well that the charges brought against me were false charges, absolutely," he insisted.

Anna also questioned whether Janet had ever doubted her husband's innocence. Janet said that early on she'd asked him for the truth. She recalled his response.

"He sat there and just cried and said, 'I'm sorry I can't give you,’ like during the interviews, ‘I can’t give you that plea, yes I did it, and stay alive – take that chance of staying alive’ – He says, ‘when I know I didn't do it.' And I knew then that, I mean, that was it for me," said Janet.

Janet said she had that same conversation with her son.
A jury of nine women and three men voted unanimously to send Bruce and Josh Turnidge to death row. The jurors deliberated for less than five hours each time.

The Turnidges also gave Anna materials to review in the case.
She'll update this story as she uncovers more.