Cheryl Christina Crane Inquest: 1958
Tale Of Star-crossed Lovers
Cameras from ABC and CBS lined the Los Angeles courtroom on April 11, 1958, ready to film what promised to be the TV event of the year. The radio networks went one better, broadcasting live when Coroner Theodore J. Curphey gaveled the proceedings to order at 9:00 A.M. After the introduction of the autopsy report and other formalities, it was time for Turner to testify.
Turner had played many roles in her life but none more important than this. She walked steadily to the stand. By now all of America was aware of her tempestuous affair with Stompanato, a third-rate hoodlum and professional gigolo. Their relationship had lasted a little over a year, 12 months of roller-coaster emotion and bruising physical battles.
They had been fighting again on the night of Good Friday. "He started shaking me badly," she told the court in a tremulous voice. "He said that if he said for me to jump, I would jump … he would even cut my face or cripple me." Under Jerry Giesler's gentle prompting, Turner went on: "As I broke away from his holding me [sic] and I turned around to face the door… my daughter was standing there … I said, 'Please, Cheryl, please don't listen to any of this. Please go back to your room.'"
When Turner broke down once during her testimony, clicking cameras recorded every emotion on her tear-stained face. Gathering her composure, she described how Stompanato had grabbed a hanger from the closet and made as if to strike her with it. "I said, 'Don't ever touch me again. I am absolutely finished. This is the end. I want you out.'"
What happened next, she said, was a blur. Cheryl came rushing into the bedroom and seemed to punch Stompanato in the stomach. He collapsed onto his back. Only then did Turner realize that he had been stabbed. While Cheryl stood sobbing, her mother ran to the bathroom for a towel. "I didn't know what to do and then I put the towel there [on the wound] and Mr. Stompanato was making dreadful sounds in his throat … gasping, terrible sounds."
At this point a deputy sheriff showed Turner the eight-inch kitchen knife that Cheryl had used to stab Stompanato. She stared at it grimly for a second, then looked away.
As Turner left the stand an unidentified man in the public gallery stood up and shouted, "Lies, lies, all lies! This mother and daughter were both in love with Stompanato.… All you Hollywood people are no good." Still yelling, the stranger strode from the court and was never seen again.