True Crime: The Fond du Lac Halloween Killer


Mugshot of Gerald Turner - Fond du Lac's Halloween Killer - from 2017 (Courtesy of Wisconsin Department of Corrections).

Emma Lewandowski, Editor

October 31st, 1973. Halloween night. 6 PM. Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Nine-year-old Lisa Ann French dresses up as a hobo – adorns a green parka, floppy felt hat, and dots her face with freckles. She prepares to visit Pumpkin Place, a community party for Halloween with her neighborhood friend, Ann Parker. Parker gets grounded, and French ventures out alone. Prior to the party, French decides to stop at a few houses on the way. 

First house down, chocolate bars are secured; second house down, and more goodies are collected; then, the third house is visited. Home of Gerald Turner, close family friend of the French’s, and trusted adult by French herself. Turner’s girlfriend, Arlene Penne, attends Pumpkin Place with their young daughter, and returns home at 7:15 PM. She notices Turner is not feeling well, as he continuously retreats to the bedroom. Penne does not think twice about this, and eventually leaves again to her mother’s. If only Penne had walked into the bedroom, she would have discovered young Lisa Ann French’s lifeless body. 

French’s school photo that was distributed all throughout the community.

By 10 PM that night, news spread of French’s sudden disappearance. Neighbors made calls to about 50 other parents on surrounding blocks, and an all-night search ensued. A mass of 5,000 people joined in the community-wide search for young French. The National Guard flew helicopters above neighborhoods, volunteers rode horses through woods, 6,000 copies of French’s school photo were distributed; local gas stations even offered 25 gallons of free gas to anyone using their vehicle to help search.  

A grueling two and a half days later, two trash bags were discovered along a stretch of brush in Taycheedah, just off of Highway 49. In these trash bags were the remains of French’s body 

Because of this horrendous crime, Fond du Lac’s trick-or-treating is only to be held during daylight hours, between 3:30 and 5:30 PM, usually on the Sunday before Halloween. Parents have long abandoned the days of allowing children to trick-or-treat on their own as well, and the name and story of Lisa Ann French weighs heavy on the citizens of Fond du Lac.

Turner’s case led to Wisconsin creating a sexual predator law, “Turner’s Law,” passed in 1994 after the state blocked his release from prison. The state had deemed him still a threat and condemned him to a secure mental

Newspaper clipping from the Milwaukee Journal, dated November 4th, 1973, that updated the discovery of French’s body.

institution. This law, “Allows for violent sex offenders to be committed to a secure treatment center when they come up for parole, if they are determined to pose a threat to society.” 

As of today, the most recent update regarding Turner was from January 17th of this year, when it was confirmed that he was being held at the Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center in Mauston. He was originally scheduled to be released on February 7th, 2018. There has been no further news regarding his status.

The tragedy of Lisa Ann French is remembered in Fond Lac as one of the most shocking, gruesome crimes committed within the community, and it is difficult to forget on the anniversary of Halloween.