The story of a missing Peoria woman whose body turned up in an Edelstein cornfield Tuesday turned more grim Wednesday with the findings of an autopsy: Tashyra McDowell died of multiple gunshot wounds.
Just as her family expected the worst when McDowell's 7-year-old autistic son turned up unattended Monday morning in the East Bluff, they also feared the worst of her wounds when the body was found.
"I knew they had . . . shot her - that's what I had assumed before they found her," McDowell's mother, Twila Rutherford, said Wednesday. "There's a lot of people mad and upset."
The autopsy determined McDowell had been shot several times before her body became entangled in a combine Tuesday near the 2100 block of Hallock Hollow Road in rural Edelstein, according to Peoria County Coroner Johnna Ingersoll.
Peoria police sought the public's help in finding McDowell on Monday after her son was found and the car she had been driving was discovered abandoned in South Peoria.
While family worked to secure funeral arrangements Wednesday, detectives with the Peoria County Sheriff's Department transformed the city's missing person case into a homicide investigation.
Chief Deputy Joe Needham said investigators were interviewing people to develop leads in the case, but no one had been arrested. He declined to release additional details.
At least one person of interest in the case, however, had been in police custody from Monday through Wednesday afternoon. An ex-boyfriend of McDowell, Stephen Turner, 25, allegedly was one of the last people to see her alive.
According to authorities and McDowell's family members, Turner was with McDowell and her son Sunday night and claimed to have fallen asleep in an East Bluff home where they were together with others. Turner claimed McDowell and her son were gone when he awoke on Monday.
Rutherford said she went to find Turner on Monday afternoon as the search for her daughter intensified. According to her account and a report from the Peoria Police Department, she found him shortly before 1 p.m. going to mow a lawn in the 5800 block of North Andover Court.
A confrontation ensued, and police were called to the scene. Turner at one point pulled an officer aside and said he wanted to tell the officer something, then retrieved a pair of boots. Inside one of the boots was a handgun.
Police seized the weapon and arrested Turner, who was booked on charges of carrying or possessing a firearm, first offense, and possessing a firearm without a firearm owner's identification card.
He was held at the Peoria County Jail until Wednesday, when he was released on a notice to appear for the charges.
The investigation into McDowell's death continues, and an inquest to determine the manner of death will be scheduled at a later date.