The small town of Wilsonville, located in Central Illinois, is populated by only six hundred citizens. Before July 13th, 1985, Wilsonville and the surrounding area in Macoupin County was quiet, peaceful, and tranquil. After sixteen-year-old Bridget Drobney went missing while attending a wedding in the area, the tranquility and sense of safety of Macoupin County was forever disturbed. Three men from Wilsonville would soon be accused and charged with a heinous crime that shook this community to its core.
On Saturday, July 13th, 1985, Bridget Margaret Drobney and her family traveled from Downers Grove to the small town of Gillespie, Illinois, to attend a family member’s wedding. The Drobney’s were staying with family in Gillespie during the occasion. During the wedding reception, Bridget left to take a family member home. As she drove back to the wedding reception, she suddenly saw a red flashing light in her rearview mirror. As a new driver, Bridget was probably nervous as she pulled to the side of the road. She never made it back to the wedding reception.
Bridget Drobney was born in 1968 in Downers Grove, a suburb of Chicago, to George and Cathy Drobney. She was a student at Downers Grove North High School. Bridget was one of four children, with a brother and two sisters. When Bridget failed to return to the wedding reception, her family began to look for the Oldsmobile she was driving. At 1:30 am, July 14th, her mother found the car along the side of the road only a mile from the home the family was staying at. The dome light was on, but Bridget, her keys, and purse were nowhere to be found.
The Macoupin County community gathered over the next few days to look for Bridget. She was last seen wearing a black dress with white polka dots and spaghetti straps with white flat shoes. Her picture was posted all over the community, and a local dairy even agreed to print her picture on their milk cartons. Bridget was five feet tall and weighed approximately 125 pounds. Alleged sightings of Bridget were reported in Dundee, Cicero, Chicago, and even Columbia, Missouri. However, these sightings were not substantiated.
Macoupin County police stated they were not ruling out that Bridget may have been kidnapped or may have just runaway. Her family knew that Bridget was not that kind of kid and would never have just disappeared on her own. Her cousin, whose wedding she was attending, called off the honeymoon to focus on finding Bridget. The entire community pulled together to find Bridget, but it would take five more days before Bridget’s family got answers.
Sandy Kay Aldridge was just an eighteen-year-old girl living Wilsonville. In the early hours of Sunday, July 14th, 1985, Sandy heard a shocking story from her older brother, nineteen-year-old Michael Turner. Michael told her a story that she found troubling, and probably even unbelievable. Once the news headlines about Bridget Drobney’s disappearance became public, Sandy came forward with the story Michael had told her, likely fearing it may just be true.
Daniel put the light on top of the vehicle and started to follow the Oldsmobile. When the driver, Bridget Drobney, saw the flashing red light in her rearview mirror, she pulled over. The three pretended to arrest Bridget, putting her in their vehicle. They then drove her to a cornfield where, according to Michael, Daniel and Robert took her into the field. Michael told his sister he could hear the girl crying, screaming, and begging for her father as the two raped her. Daniel came out of the cornfield first, and finally Robert came out of the field. The three left the area, and Michael told the story to his sister a few hours later.
When Sandy came forward, police got their first break in the case. Michael Turner, Robert Turner, and Daniel Hines were brought in for questioning and later arrested after Sandy’s information led to the remains of sixteen-year-old Bridget Drobney in a rural cornfield outside Gillespie. The autopsy determined that Bridget Drobney had died of a stab wound to her neck. She had also been sexually assaulted.
The devastation of Bridget’s death could be felt throughout the central Illinois communities and Chicago suburb she called home. On Monday, July 22nd, the family of Bridget laid her to rest. She was remembered as a kind person who lived her life with love. Bridget tutored special education students. She was very involved with her church and was a child of God. Back in Macoupin County, the devastation continued. “It’s a hell of a deal. Somebody comes from Downers Grove to rural Illinois and gets murdered down here. But I guess that goes to show it could happen anywhere”, a Macoupin County man said (St. Louis Post Dispatch, 1985).
Daniel Hines was the first of the men to go on trial in 1986. According to his defense, he was present when Bridget was kidnapped, but claimed he did not sexually assault or kill her. According to the defense, Hines and Michael Tuner were shielded by 20 rows of tall corn, behind which Robert Turner alone raped and murdered Bridget. The prosecution, however, utilized statements made by Michael Turner and Sandy to prove that Daniel Hines was an active participant.
According to the prosecution, Daniel and Robert planned to abduct a girl and together brought Bridget into that field. Bridget was forced to perform oral sex on both Robert and Daniel as Michael Turner waited in the car. Daniel said that he was waiting by the road when he heard the girl screaming and gasping. Daniel said he didn’t even know Bridget had been killed until July 16th, when Robert described stabbing her in the neck because he was unable to “knock her out”.
Michael Turner testified at the trial that he heard Bridget crying and asking for her father. He said Bridget told Robert Turner to “Hit me on the head with the rock. Put me out of this pain.” (Gauen, 1986). Evidence was also permitted showing that in September of 1985, Daniel Hines attempted to escape county jail while awaiting trial by sawing through three bars of his cell with a hacksaw that another inmate smuggled in. Daniel Hines was found guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual assault, robbery, unlawful restraint, and confinement. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In June of 1986, Robert Turner went on trial. The state planned to seek the death penalty against the twenty-nine-year-old, who both Hines and Michael Turner claimed actually killed Bridget Drobney. The defense claimed that Robert was still at Lake Litchfield when Michael and Daniel alone kidnapped, assaulted, and killed Bridget Drobney. The prosecution said, “Robert Turner, the man sitting here, was the last one to come out of the cornfield and came out with a knife in his hand… clearly the one that killed Bridget Drobney in the cornfield” (Allan, M., 1986).
Despite his claims of innocence, Michael Turner testified for the prosecution. He once again said Daniel Hines pulled the girl over with the light. He said Hines and Robert Turner kidnapped the girl and drove her a few miles to the cornfield. According to Michael, Hines came out of the field first with some of Bridget’s clothing. He ordered Michael to get rid of the red light. He said after Hines and Michael yelled for Robert several times, he emerged from the field. Robert later told Michael and Daniel that he had trouble holding Bridget down, so he stabbed her in the neck. Michael said that Robert said something to the effect of, “don’t worry, she’s not going anywhere” (Turner V. Illinois). He later said he wasn’t worried about getting in trouble because he thought a combine or tractor would likely destroy the body. Given the totality of the evidence and testimony against Robert Turner, he was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to death.
Michael Turner claimed from the beginning to be a victim, brought along into a situation he was not a willing participant in. In November of 1986, the Drobney family was appalled when prosecutors made a plea bargain with Michael Turner. Michael came from an uneducated background and had been key in the successful prosecution of his brother, Robert Turner, and Daniel Hines. He had testified without a promise of leniency or a deal in place by the prosecution. The Drobney family was devastated by the news of the plea deal, stating it was a miscarriage of justice. Turner was allowed to plea only to a count of concealment of a homicidal death and was given a five-year sentence.
Robert Turner’s death sentence was overturned in 1989 on appeal, only to be reimposed in 1990. In 2003, former Illinois Governor George Ryan commuted all death sentences in Illinois to life in prison, including Robert Turner. Turner was resentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In late 2022, the Illinois Prison Project supported a petition by Robert Turner for clemency. The Drobney family once again had to fear that Bridget’s killer could walk free. With opposition from the Drobney family, clemency was denied in February of 2023 for Robert Turner. Robert Turner and Daniel Hines remain imprisoned in the Illinois Department of Corrections.
St. Louis Post Dispatch. (1985). Bridget Drobney, stabbing victim, is eulogized. 23 Jul 1985
St. Louis Post Dispatch. (1985). Murder-rape suspect may be moved. 12 Sep 1985
St. Louis Post Dispatch. (1985). Girl’s killing ruptures tranquility of rural Illinois. 19 Jul 1985
Ahmed, Safir. (1985). Girl’s body is found; 3 men held. St. Louis Post Dispatch. 19 Jul 1985
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The Rock Island Argus. (1986). Jury convicts 24-year-old in rape-slaying of Chicago teen. 19 Apr 1986
Papajohn, G. (1985). 3 tricked slain girl, police say. Chicago Tribune. 20 Jul 1985
Gauen, P. (1986). Jury selected, trial to start in slaying of 16-year-old girl. St. Louis Post Dispatch. 06 Apr 1986
Gauen, P. (1986). Trial opens in killing of wedding guest. St. Louis Post Dispatch. 08 Apr 1986
Allan, M. (1986). Man was not a scene of murder, lawyer says. The Belleville News-Democrat. 17 Jun 1986
Kenosha News (1985). Slaying suspect says he was a victim, too. 22 Jul 1985
Papajohn, G. (1986). Plea bargain angers slain girl’s family. Chicago Tribune. 06 Nov 1986