ST. LOUIS – We’ve told you about a star witness who admitted she lied about a case that imprisoned Bertha Owens for life. Now, Owens’ original attorney explains why there may not have been a murder in the first place.

Sharon Turlington worked in the capital division in the public defender’s office when she defended Bertha Owens almost 25 years ago.

“It really bothers me that there is not a lot of recourse in the justice system for people who have trials that aren’t fair,” she said.

Turlington represented Owens in a 1998 murder case.

“They offered me 20 years and I was like, ‘Well, I’m not going to take anything for something I don’t know nothing about, nor did I do,’” Owens told us last year from inside the Chillicothe Correctional Center.

It happened at the California Garden Apartments in south St. Louis. Fred Huff lived on the first floor. Owens says she often hung out in a drug house on the second floor. On Oct. 18 1996, Huff was beaten and robbed. He died 20 days later.

Turlington said there was a lot of interest in getting a conviction.

“You have a victim who is an elderly white man who was hit over the head, he was in a wheelchair, he was disabled,” she said.

With no physical evidence, the trial hinged on one witness—whom we’ve reported in previous FOX Files investigations—who has since recanted her testimony.

Even back in 1998, the judge indicated in a sidebar the witness was not believable. FOX 2 tracked down that witness, who told us she was pressured to testify against Owens or face her own charges.

“I am not surprised that that happened, particularly since Nels Moss was involved,” Turlington said.

Moss is the former prosecutor Turlington faced in the 1998 trial. Turlington remembers having to fight Moss just to get discovery. The victim had been robbed and hit on the head and then went to the hospital months before he died.

“There was a lot of pushback from Nels Moss in terms of us getting, first of all, the complete autopsy report and then a lot of pushback to get the full medical records from the hospital,” Turlington said.

FOX 2 recently obtained the autopsy. We found buried in the 9-page report from 1998 a line that says “colon perforation.”

“In this particular case, because it had that information in it, he had a reason for not wanting us to see that,” Turlington said. “Basically the hospital made a mistake and accidentally punctured his colon and then he ultimately died because he became septic.”

Turlington said she received the evidence so late, that it was difficult to find her own medical expert in time for trial. Owens would’ve been released years ago if it wasn’t a first-degree murder case.

Owens has been locked up for 25 years.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” she said during our November 2021 prison visit.

However, there may soon be a break in Owens’ case. She now has a new St. Louis-based attorney getting involved, which you’ll hear from soon.

“It’s very problematic that people like in Bertha’s case, where the evidence is not particularly strong, they’re subject to the same sentencing as somebody where they might have DNA and fingerprints and a confession,” Turlington said.