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Murderer convicted of crime as juvenile in Cumberland Co. to be re-sentenced; family wants justice

HAMPDEN TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Steven Turner was just 11 years old when his life was taken in October 1981. His sisters, Sheri McMichael and Melissa Vaccaro, sai...

HAMPDEN TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- Steven Turner was just 11 years old when his life was taken in October 1981.

His sisters, Sheri McMichael and Melissa Vaccaro, said, he was fun, playful and loved sports.

McMichael and Vaccaro remember that fall day clearly in Hampden Township, Cumberland County, 36 years ago. They said Steven went out to ride his bike near the house and didn't show up after being called for dinner one evening.

McMichael said, "It was a very tense dinner, and my mom really couldn't eat. And we could tell she was nervous and uncomfortable."

John Waters, a 16 year old at the time who lived in the neighborhood, had come to the house earlier.

Vaccaro said, "John was standing there and he said, 'Is Steve around?' And I said, 'No he's probably out riding his bike. You'll probably catch him.' 'Do you know where he's at?' 'No I don't know where he's at. He's just out riding his bike.'"

After dinner when Steven didn't show up, a search party went out to look for him, and that night haunts them to this day.

Vaccaro said, "This whole mess kind of just changes how your life goes after that."

Steven's body was found in an old farmhouse. He was sexually assaulted, stabbed with a steak knife, beaten and covered up.

Their father returned home to deliver the news.

McMichael said, "The only words he could get out were 'Steven's dead.' And the house turned into panic, and screaming, and crying."

Days later, Waters confessed to the murder when interrogated by police. The steak knives in his mother's home matched the knife blade found lodged in Steven's throat. Police also found blood on his clothes from the night of the murder.

Waters was given a mandatory sentence of life without parole.

But the Supreme Court ruled last year that sentence is unconstitutional, saying it is cruel and unusual punishment.

Inmates serving mandatory life sentences in prison when they committed murder as juveniles will have a chance for their sentences to be re-evaluated.

McMichael said, "It's lumping every juvenile into one category to be able to be re-sentenced, and every case is different."

Vaccaro and McMichael believe it was premeditated murder and Waters acted in a calculating way just after Steven's body was discovered.

McMichael said, "John Waters sat in our house. And he was there, and he was listening, and he was paying attention, and he was putting in his two cents."

They don't think he's a changed person, and they want justice for their brother.

McMichael said, "If you can be that type of person at 17, do you think it went away now that he's 52?"

Waters' re-sentencing hearing is scheduled for November 13, and he has a chance of getting out on parole one day.

Vaccaro and McMichael are trying to make sure that doesn't happen and honor their mother's last wishes.

Vaccaro said, "Make sure people remember Steve. Don't let his memory die. And make sure John stays in jail."

Steven's family has a petition on Facebook to keep Waters in jail.

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