GRUNDY COUNTY – A Yorkville man was sentenced to 25 years in prison Monday after accepting an Alford plea in the May 2019 killing of his girlfriend, who was found dead in her home after a fire.
Robert Turk, 45, had been charged with first-degree murder and aggravated arson after Elizabeth Link’s was discovered in her home after a May 2019 fire. Link was 39.
By accepting an Alford plea, Turk maintained his innocence while admitting the state has enough evidence to convict him. Turk only pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. The other charges against him were dropped as a part of the agreement.
Link’s body was discovered May 14, 2019, when Grundy County sheriff’s deputies responded to a residential fire and found Link’s body after the fire was extinguished, according to court documents.
Attorney Peter Siena laid out the state’s case, citing that an autopsy conducted by Amanda Yousman, a forensic pathologist, concluded that “there was no soot in [Link’s] airways and bloodwork suggested she was not breathing during the fire,” suggesting Link died before the fire began.
Furthermore, Link’s neck organs had suffered damage from either “strangulation” or “stabbing,” and after further investigation it was determined that she died from a “stab wound to the neck,” citing three marks below the left jawline, Siena said in court.
Siena cited previous interviews with law enforcement in which Turk admitted to spending the night at Link’s residence the night before and left at 5 a.m. to pay his mortgage or risk having to pay a penalty. Upon investigation, it was discovered that his mortgage was not due until June, Siena said.
In another interview, Turk stated that in January 2019 the couple broke up due to “religious issues” over Link having been “previously married.” Apparently, Turk’s mother had concerns about her previous marriage, as well, Siena said in court.
Siena used cellphone tracking through Google, to retrace Turk’s steps that morning. He also referenced former Grundy County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Hetelle’s dashcam video that he asserted showed Turk’s vehicle at 5:47 a.m. driving away from the scene.
After the prosecution finished its case, Judge Lance Peterson outlined the agreement stating that Turk would have to serve 100% of his 25-year sentence and in this plea there was “no such thing as good time.”
Turk acknowledged he understood the terms of the deal, but when it came time for verbalizing his plea he seemed to struggle.
“It’s still a guilty plea – you have to say the words,” Peterson told him.
The court recessed for about 20 minutes for Turk to confer with his attorney, Julie Trevarthen. When he returned, he accepted the plea.
“I maintain my innocence, but plead guilty under the plea,” Turk said.
Turk will serve 25 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections with 826 days previously served and three years supervised release. He has 30 days to appeal.
Elizabeth Link’s mother, Kim Jensen, gave a victim impact statement in court outlining the beauty of Link’s life and all of the moments that she will forever be missing.
“When your child dies, your life is forever divided by the before and the after,” Jensen said. “Imagine Elizabeth never getting to see her son graduate high school. Imagine her never getting to meet her future daughter- in-law.”
Elizabeth Link’s family released a statement after the hearing.
“On behalf of Elizabeth Link’s family, we are humbled by the sustained support and love we have received on this painful journey.
“Our thanks go out to law enforcement and the state’s attorney’s office for the compassion and professionalism they have shown our family throughout on behalf of Elizabeth.
“We have been deeply touched by the great care and effort that has been given to reveal the truth in this case. A great job by the task force, Ken Briley, Paul Clampitt, and the whole Will and Grundy Major Crimes Task Force, the Coroner, John Calahan, the States Attorney Jason Helland, Pete, Vicki and Danielle, the attorney general, Nate Steve, Russ, the office girls, even the security guards, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for everything, your perseverance, your drive, your professionalism, your kindness!! I have really been blessed to get to know and deal with an awesome, awesome team of people!! Always professional, yet definitely passionate and so very friendly!! Thank you. Our thanks go out to the Morris community, Elizabeth’s dearest friends from here and our Michigan community, for the love and continued support during this painful process. Our family grieves alongside all of Elizabeth’s friends from this community, for we have all suffered a terrible loss in this tragedy.
“We are grateful for our faith in God which has sustained us each difficult day. In Philippians 4:13 ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ We cannot describe the words of living life without Elizabeth. We loved her and miss her tremendously. We move forward to each day in front of us as we privately continue the healing and grieving process.”