Mother writes 'Halloween killer,' again
- Mother writes 'Halloween killer,' again
By JIM STINGL
Posted: June 2, 2007
Forever a child in our memory, Lisa French would have turned 43 this
She's the 9-year-old girl from Fond du Lac who was sexually assaulted
and murdered by Gerald Turner as she was trick-or-treating in 1973.
So much strife has followed because at that time Wisconsin had not
yet figured out that someone who kills and rapes a child and stuffs
her body in a trash bag should never walk free.
Lisa's mother, Maryann Gehring, contacted my newspaper last week.
"It makes my blood boil to see what these prisoners can do," she
And she included a copy of an angry letter she just mailed to Turner
in Waupun, where he's back in prison.
Never mind that she's upset about something that happened eight years
ago. Living in Florida since 1995, she's just finding out about it
now from the Internet.
This is the second time she has written to Turner. They have never
spoken in person, except that on sentencing day she says he turned to
her and said, "I didn't mean to do it."
The first time she wrote to him was in the 1980s. She wanted him to
know that she forgave him, but not his sin. It's a meaningful
distinction to her.
At that time she included copies of some notes that Lisa had written.
Maryann found them in the girl's dresser drawer the day after the
funeral. They were tips for getting into heaven.
Imagine. The mother of a murdered child advising the killer on
attaining his eternal reward. And using words that the child had
neatly printed in pencil.
He didn't write back.
Here's the way Maryann opens the letter she sent last week: "Gerald,
I have lived for the last 34 years missing my daughter Lisa."
She often thinks what Lisa's life would be like and wonders if she
would have children of her own. Maryann explains this to the man
whose crime shook Wisconsin so profoundly that he earned a nickname,
the Halloween killer, and led to daytime trick-or-treat.
The fact that his insufficient prison term allowed him to get out of
prison after a mere 19 years also inspired a law that says sexual
predators can be locked up until they're not a danger anymore.
It has always irked Maryann that the law is named after Turner and
not her daughter, she told me.
But then she came to the real reason for writing to Turner. It's
hardly news anymore, but she was incensed to learn that Turner had
received an unspecified monetary settlement from Waste Management
Inc. in 1999 to settle a claim he filed. He complained that the
company discriminated against him by denying him a job in its Madison
recycling center while he was out on parole.
Turner was returned to prison in 2003 for 15 more years after he
violated his parole by possessing pornography on his computer.
"I have just recently heard of this stupid charade, and as I stated
before it makes my blood BOIL," the letter to Turner says.
She tells him to give the money back, although it's probably way too
late for that.
"Shame on you," this mother says, even using the word rape to
describe Turner's claim.
Just in case Turner didn't get the message before, Maryann included
copies of her daughter's notes again. "Be willing to turn away from
sin," one says.
Think about it, Maryann tells him.
"Knowing Lisa," she closes, "she is praying for you, too."
Call Jim Stingl at (414) 224-2017 or e-mail at