Crime - Sacto 911

Sacramento couple’s murder-suicide shocked family, friends

Together for seven years, Jason Turner and Mary Sydara argued constantly, their fights sometimes turning physical, according to family and friends.

Still, days after their bodies were discovered in their Sacramento duplex, those who knew the pair said they found it hard to believe that Turner, 32, shot Sydara, 31, dead before turning the gun on himself.

Sacramento police did not find a suicide note when the bodies were discovered Friday night in the residence but labeled the incident a murder-suicide.

Sydara’s family acknowledged the couple argued, but said they were too stricken to talk more about her life, sharing briefly that she worked at a nursing home. Earlier this week, her parents and two brothers huddled in the front yard of their home, just down the street from where Sydara and Turner lived.

According to neighbors, some of the physical fighting would spill out to the courtyard of the 38th Avenue duplex. Police confirmed they responded to the home for at least one domestic disturbance last year, said Sgt. Bryce Heinlein, a spokesman. In February, officers were called to the duplex for an assault allegedly committed by Turner on another individual. There was no report generated in that incident.

Patricia Van Laninghamm, 73, a longtime friend of Turner, called the murder-suicide “something totally out of character” for Turner, despite the couple’s constant quarreling.

Van Laninghamm said Turner was trying to move out of the unit. Sydara’s family said she also was searching for a new place to live.

Van Laninghamm said she discovered the bodies of the couple Friday night, a claim police would not confirm, though police said they spoke to her.

Concerned when Turner failed to answer his phone, Van Laninghamm said she drove onto 38th Avenue, where she saw Sydara’s family outside their home. Officers responded after Sydara’s family requested a welfare check on the woman.

Van Laninghamm said she forced her way into the residence and found Sydara’s body, collapsed just 3 feet from the front door.

“Once I saw that, I knew Jason was gone, too,” she said. “They argued all the time. They had a very volatile relationship.”

Sacramento County family court records do not show that a restraining order was ever filed against Turner by Sydara. However, in 2008, Turner’s former partner, Yolanda Douthitt, filed a complaint alleging domestic violence.

Van Laninghamm said Douthitt lives in Alabama with two children that Turner fathered.

Van Laninghamm said Turner had recently obtained a job as an armed security guard.

Nilda Valmores, executive director of Sacramento nonprofit My Sister’s House, said those with access to firearms are much more likely to commit a murder-suicide. My Sister’s House is an organization dedicated to helping Asian women escape domestic violence, abusive relationships and human trafficking. Sydara was Asian.

She added that family members are crucial for helping victims of domestic violence. They can offer a safe place to live, for instance, Valmores said.

“If the fighting is getting worse, that’s a warning sign. If there’s a gun in the house, that’s a warning sign,” Valmores said. “If the partner has past partners he’s been abusive with, that’s another warning sign.”

Bee staff writer Darrell Smith contributed to this report.

Richard Chang: 916-321-1018, @RichardYChang