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The family of murdered Bank of America executive Michelle Avan are demanding that Los Angeles County’s lead prosecutor press more serious charges against her suspected killer.
District Attorney George Gascón, who has weathered considerable criticism in California for a perceived progressive stance on crime during his short stint in office, is under fire regarding the severity of charges filed against Avan’s ex-boyfriend and accused killer, Anthony Duwyane Turner.
Avan’s loved ones are calling on Gascón's office to file upgraded special circumstances charges against Turner, which would condemn him to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole, if he is convicted. By not applying the enhanced special circumstance allegations, if found guilty, Turner could be eligible for parole in 25 years.
"He's eligible for anything that a murderer should not be eligible for," Patrick Miller, Avan's brother, told Fox News.
On Aug. 5, 2021, the 48-year-old Avan was found murdered at her San Fernando Valley home with apparent “trauma to her face,” police said. Turner was arrested the same day and charged with murder and first-degree burglary, according to a criminal complaint obtained by Oxygen.com.
Avan's brother Miller accused Gascón's office of being politically motivated.
"I don't believe his policies are for the people he was voted to serve," Miller added. "We expect justice when something happens. He puts you in a position to make justice seem as not the norm."
Avan's family members are expected to attend a protest, along with other community activists, outside Gascón's office on Thursday.
Gascón's progressive polices has drawn ire from fellow police officials, prosecutors, conservative critics and victims’ families since assuming office in 2020. As a Democrat and former San Francisco district attorney, eliminating enhancement charges — which increase the required penalties in the sentencing phase after conviction — in an attempt to cut back on mass incarceration was one of his first policies he implemented after taking the reins as the county's top prosecutor.
"In my son's case, they were all facing special circumstances… and those are being dismissed,” Desiree Andrade, whose son was murdered in 2018, said. “They were all facing the death penalty or life without parole and now they're only facing 25 years with the possibility of parole. To me, that's a slap in the face. So I can see how the Avan family is upset about this. There are no consequences anymore."
A spokesperson for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the pending case when connected by Oxygen.com on Tuesday.
Turner's attorney, meanwhile, accused Gascón's opponents of exploiting Avan's murder for political gain.
"They're some people out there who are trying to use this, politicize this, to be a referendum on Gascón," Jovan Blacknell told Oxygen.com. "This case literally has nothing to do with any of his policies."
Blacknell, who described Turner as an "upstanding citizen," whom he said, had no prior criminal history, was adamant his client would be cleared in Avan's slaying.
"He's innocent of these charges," Blacknell said. "They're very serious charges. He's in a very difficult position where somebody who he loved and cared for is now gone. Not only is he dealing with her loss of life but he's also being accused of committing the crime. We're just asking for our chance to be heard in court."
Avan worked as a senior vice president at Bank of America and was the head of global women’s and under-represented talent strategy in global human resources.
“We are devastated by the news,” Bank of America said in an August statement sent to Oxygen.com. “Michelle was a valued member of our company for more than 20 years and will be greatly missed. We extend our deepest sympathies to her family.”
Avan was first hired by Merrill Lynch in 1998, which was later acquired by Bank of America. She had just been promoted to her current role in 2021, officials for the company confirmed.
In 2019, Avan was recognized as one of Los Angeles’ Powerful and Influential Black Women Leaders by the Los Angeles Sentinel.
“Michelle was a dear friend and dedicated warrior for our community, and a dear friend to me and my entire family,” Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., the newspaper’s executive publisher, told the Los Angeles Times in a statement. “This news is just devastating.”
Turner had been held at a Los Angeles County detention facility, according to online jail records. He bonded out pending trial on Aug. 13. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 20, prosecutors said.
Kellen Isaiah Davis, Turner's defense counsel, wasn't immdetiately available for comment when contacted by Oxygen.com on Tuesday.
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