Michael Myers is the fictional killer in the Halloween movie franchise who started killing when he was six years old, on Halloween. When Michael returns home on Halloween, he wants to pick up where he left off. But that is just in the movies, right? For a 9-year-old little girl, in 1973 she met her own version of a Halloween Killer. This Wisconsin case is about Lisa Ann French.
**Warning – This case may be too much for some it does contain details of child murder and child rape. Please read with caution. **
In Fond du Lac WI, in 1973 trick or treating wouldn’t begin until it was dark. Then all the kids would prowl the neighborhood in search of tricks or treats. Lisa French was no exception. She was dressed as a hobo that year as it was warmer than the butterfly costume she had wanted to wear. Lisa may have been prowling for candy, but someone was on the prowl for Lisa.
The parents in the area were a block over at a party, and Lisa had planned to go with her friend Ann, but due to Ann misbehaving she was not allowed to go trick or treating that year with Lisa.
Lisa left her house at 6pm, and looked every bit the hobo, she had masking tape on her jeans, a floppy felt hat, a green parka, and a face dotted with painted on freckles. After the party, Lisa had made three stops in the neighborhood, a teacher, a classmate, and Gerald Turner’s house.
Gerald and Lisa had been neighbors as they shared a duplex. When Gerald had moved in with his girlfriend, just down the block, Lisa would still stop by and visit him. She would push his baby in a stroller and show him things she had gotten, or even to chat.
Gerald’s girlfriend, Arlene Penn, was going to visit her mother on Halloween night, but after Arlene had returned from the party a block over, Gerald stated he wasn’t feeling well and urged her to go to visit her mother alone.
Lisa arrived after Arlene had left, she had stepped inside, and Gerald led her upstairs to the bedroom, where he removed all her clothing and proceeded to have anal intercourse with her. It is presumed she had died from this.
Arlene would return home unexpectedly as she remembered her mother wouldn’t be home for another hour. Gerald stated several times that he wasn’t feeling well and went to lay down in the bedroom. Had Arlene gone to check on him, she may have seen the lifeless body of the 9-year-old child, Lisa Ann French.
After Arlene had left a second time, Gerald worked quickly to stuff Lisa’s body and clothing into garbage bags and then drove to a more rural area to dump her on the side of the road.
Lisa’s mother was beginning to worry when Lisa didn’t return home by the 7pm curfew. And at 10pm, the search for Lisa had begun. Parents began calling other parents to turn on their lights and put signs in their windows. The police searched all night, and the next day over 5,000 people were looking for Lisa Ann French.
It was two and a half days later when Gerald Braun a farmer was returning home on his tractor and saw two garbage bags on the side of McCabe Road in the town of Taycheedah. The responding officers was quoted as saying, “It was … the worst possible thing that could have happened. I saw that little girl, and I don’t know how any man could do that.”
The entire community mourned the loss and in November 1973, her funeral was packed with people to pay their respects to her. Kids from school and her Girl Scouts Troop took up nine rows in the church. Lisa wore a purple and white dress and lay as if she was sleeping in her white casket.
Gerald Turner would be arrested nine months later. He had been questioned since she disappeared and finally confessed to her murder in August 1974. He would state to the jury at his trial that he was tired of the police harassing him and that is why he signed the confession.
In his confession Gerald stated that he was “highly sexually motivated” when he took Lisa to his bedroom. At one point during his attack, he noticed she wasn’t breathing and attempted to revive her, but Arlene had returned home. He placed socks on his hands to move her body into the bathroom.
Police had also collected hair and fiber samples from Gerald Turner and those samples positively matched those on Lisa’s body and clothing. The autopsy listed the cause of death as asphyxiation and stated that the little girl died from the shock during the assault.
Gerald was found guilty of second-degree murder, enticing a child for immoral purposes and acts of sexual perversion. He was sentenced to 38 years and began serving his sentence on February 4, 1975.
Gerald Turner gave the city reason to change the trick or treating hours to daylight hours as he had proved that the bogeyman was real and would also be known as the “Halloween Killer”.
After 17 years and 8 months of his 38-year sentence, Gerald Turner was paroled for good behavior. But he would be returned to prison when it was learned his release date was calculated incorrectly.
Turner’s Law was created that allowed for sex offenders to be committed to a secure treatment center if they come up for parole and are considered a threat to society. Gerald was again up for release in July 1994. It was blocked due to Turner’s Law.
In 1998, he was on trial to see if he needed to be held as a sexual predator. The jury didn’t agree with that description and that he was free to be released. Despite a couple of incidents (he waved a knife and shouted at a caseworker in a Madison group home while he worked as a cook), he was more or less left alone.
Until 2003 when it was discovered that Gerald had violated his parole. Authorities discovered pornographic images on a computer drive as well as sexually explicit videos and magazines. A judge ordered him back to prison for 15 years.
In 2018 the state had filed a petition to keep Gerald committed to a mental facility. As of 2022 the court still has not made a final decision on this matter and Gerald resides at the Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center in Mauston, WI.
It has been 49 years since Lisa Ann French was murdered, does Gerald Turner now 74, deserve to live the rest of his life as a free man? Or should he remain at the treatment center? I’m willing to believe even if it is the worst place in the state, he is still being treated more humanely than he treated little Lisa French.
Stay Weird Wisconsin