MAYVILLE – The homicide case against a 22-year-old Jamestown man sentenced to prison Wednesday was more complicated than what was originally disclosed by law enforcement.
Tavion Turner was sentenced to 21-years in prison, plus five years post-release supervision, after pleading guilty to first-degree manslaughter this summer in the 2017 death of Jamestown native Dyllan Ownbey. Turner was previously indicted on two counts of second-degree murder, which meant that he was accused of murder while in the process of committing a separate felony.
Erie County District Attorney John Flynn spoke with WNY News Now following the sentencing, as his office took over the case. The prosecutor detailed extensively the facts that weren’t originally announced while the investigation was being conducted by the Jamestown Police Department and members of the Chautauqua County District Attorney’s Office, who handled the prosecution prior to current DA Jason Schmidt (Turner’s previous lawyer) defeating former DA Patrick Swanson.
Flynn explains how Turner wasn’t the only individual involved in Ownbey’s death.
“This, in essence, was a fake drug deal that had gone sour,” Flynn said. “There were five individuals that were involved in this incident. Four on one side, and one, the victim, on the other side, if you’re looking at it in these kind of terms.”
Four of the individuals lured Ownbey to a Willard Street location “under the pretext that they were going to sell him drugs,” Flynn said. He says they were under the impression Ownbey was going to have money, adding that they “were basically lying to the victim and they had no drugs on them.”
According to Flynn, the “mastermind” of the fake deal, took a conspiracy plea in Jamestown City Court prior to his staff’s involvement. The driver of the vehicle, who reportedly never left the car, also pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in Jamestown City Court prior to Erie County’s involvement, Flynn says.
Two of the four co-defendants left the vehicle to interact with Ownbey, according to Flynn. One of the individuals, Michael Patterson, and Ownbey became involved in an altercation. Patterson, the only co-defendant besides Turner to be identified, pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted robbery.
Turner and Ownbey, then, became involved in an altercation. During the altercation, Flynn said Turner pulled a knife and stabbed Ownbey once in the neck.
Patterson reportedly fled the scene after his role in the altercation.
Flynn reiterated that Turner was the only suspect who his office was involved in prosecuting.
“We only got involved in the Tavion Turner matter,” Flynn said. “The other three clowns, quite frankly, who were involved in this thing before hand, they had already taken their pleas. They were going to be used as witnesses in our case against Mr. Turner. But we didn’t end up needing them, and those three had already been adjudicated from a plea standpoint earlier on.”
Flynn explains that Patterson and the two other unidentified individuals are still awaiting sentencing, and his office will oversee their sentences when they take place.
Erie County’s top prosecutor is known for being reluctant to plea murder charges down to manslaughter or other lesser charges. Flynn, however, says the Turner case had a unique set of circumstances that pushed him towards a plea deal.
“I have a reputation for not allowing pleas. I make nine out of ten people plead guilty to a murder charge,” Flynn said. “But this was one of the ten cases that I did consent to the lesser plea of the manslaughter. I did it for a number of reasons.”
One of the reasons Flynn says he authorized a plea of first-degree manslaughter was because Swanson had already offered a plea of first-degree manslaughter. A verbal agreement was reached with the defense, with Judge David Foley becoming aware, according to Flynn.
Schmidt defeating Swanson in the 2020 election, however, forced both of them to recuse themselves from the case. Flynn says he and his staff didn’t discuss the case with Swanson after he was hired onto Flynn’s staff in an effort to avoid a conflict of interest.
“There was already kind of a quasi agreement before I even got the case that this guy was going to take the manslaughter plea,” Flynn said. “To be perfectly fair, I could’ve blew it all up. I could’ve said, ‘You know what, I don’t care what was said before. I don’t care what was offered before. I’m going to make him plea to the murder.”
One of the reasons Flynn chose not to proceed with the trial stemmed from the quality of witnesses that he had.
“I didn’t have any upstanding citizens who were around the scene and witnessed what happened,” Flynn said. “My witnesses were mainly the three clowns who had plead guilty to other charges who were already involved in this whole setup.”
“I want good witnesses if I’m going all the way with a murder charge,” he added. “I didn’t want to risk having this guy (Turner) either walk totally, or have maybe something even less than the manslaughter in the first-degree. I wanted this guy to pay for what he did, and be held accountable for what he did.”
At the end of the day, Flynn explains that his goal is to obtain the best possible result for the victim and their family.
Flynn says that he was satisfied with the results that were obtained by Chief Gary Hackbush of the Homicide Bureau and Assistant District Attorney John G. Schoemick of the Felony Trials Bureau.
“I’m pleased that Mr. Turner is going to be held accountable for his actions and is going to spend over 20 years in jail for taking the life of another human being,” Flynn said. “I’m obviously very pleased that justice was done for this family and that he’s being accountable for his actions.
Turner’s lawyer, Avery Olson, declined to comment following the sentencing.