What started as a search for a missing 2-year-old boy ended less than two days later with the grim discovery of remains buried in a shallow grave in a Southeast Austin field.
Authorities think they found Colton Brandt Turner — who hadn’t been seen since July — at 2:05 p.m. Friday after digging in a field near Felter Lane, close to Burleson Road and McKinney Falls Parkway.
His mother, 20-year-old Leander High School graduate Meagan Work, was arrested Wednesday in Cedar Park when police first started searching for her son. She was first held at the Williamson County Jail on a charge of endangering a child but was transferred Friday to the Travis County Jail. Police have called her a “person of interest” in her son’s case.
Police have said Work was homeless and living in a car with her son when he was last seen in July in Austin.
After her arrest, Work told police three different accounts of what had happened to her son “that did not check out,” Cedar Park Police Chief Sean Mannix said at a news conference Friday after police found the remains.
Work has also claimed she is pregnant, but there are no “medical documents to support that,” Mannix said.
Police declined to reveal more about the investigation, including how they got information about where Colton was buried or when they think he died. Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said that Colton “should have been enjoying his life instead of ending up in a shallow grave buried as if he was a cat.”
The investigation began when a friend of Work’s called Cedar Park police Wednesday night concerned about Colton’s welfare. Colton’s father, Brandon Pelfrey, had posted pictures of the child on Facebook earlier Wednesday that showed Colton with bruises and scratches on his back and face. Pelfrey’s Facebook post asked people to help find his son.
Police arrested Work at a Cedar Park home Wednesday night. They said Thursday that reports had been made to Texas Department of Family and Protective Services about Work.
The state agency declined to comment about any reports of abuse involving Work. Pelfrey also declined to comment Friday.
Pelfrey’s cousin, Heather Pelfrey, told the American-Statesman on Friday that Colton’s father had recently gotten the photos of Colton that appeared on Facebook from one of Work’s relatives.
Heather Pelfrey said she had last seen Colton in May at Brandon Pelfrey’s house in Bertram, when both father and son were playing happily in the mud together. Heather Pelfrey said she knows Work. “She liked to party and have a good time and act like she didn’t have a kid,” Heather Pelfrey said. “She wanted to act like she was still 17.”
Work didn’t seem like she would ever hurt anyone, Heather Pelfrey said. She said Work had been planning to move to San Saba with Work’s boyfriend, Michael Brandt Turner. Leander police arrested Turner on Aug. 27 on a motion to revoke bond for a theft charge out of San Saba County. He was released to another law enforcement authority on Sept. 3, according to court records.
Work pleaded guilty to assault for punching a woman in the face inside the Wild West nightclub in Cedar Park in May 2013, according to court documents. She was put on probation for 15 months. At the time of her arrest, Work said she was living with her father in Lakeway and had last worked in April at a Logan Roadhouse in Leander, court documents said.
She also wrote that she was receiving no child support because the father of Colton Turner was in jail, according to court documents. Brandon Pelfrey was serving a four-year prison sentence on a conviction of injury to a child, elderly individual or disabled individual, according to court records.
Pelfrey told police that he had kicked a teenage boy with mental disabilities several times in September 2011 in Cedar Park and then cut off the boy’s clothing with a knife, according to an arrest warrant. The attack was part of a larger assault by a group of men who had burned the teenager and choked him until he was unconscious.
Pelfrey was released from prison in August 2013, according to a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. His father and stepmother said Friday that he was always trying to see Colton, but Work would keep him away from his son.
David Pelfrey, Brandon Pelfrey’s father, told the Statesman he and his wife had never met Colton but last talked to him on the telephone in May. “We were supposed to see him soon,” he said. Work had sent a video in May of her, Colton and Brandon Pelfrey, riding in a truck in the mud, he said.
“I thought she (Work) was doing good, but apparently that was a big lie,” said Trina Pelfrey, Brandon Pelfrey’s mother.