A Suspect in the Infamous Isabella Stewart Gardner Heist Has Been Released From Prison After 21 Years

Daniel Turner was sentenced to time served following his conviction in a separate case.

Johannes Vermeer, The Concert (circa 1663–1666). The painting was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990. Courtesy Wikimedia commons.
Johannes Vermeer, The Concert (circa 1663–66). The painting was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990. Courtesy Wikimedia commons.

A man suspected of being involved in the infamous 1990 heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston has been released from prison. David Turner, 52, was freed yesterday after serving 21 years in prison for a separate planned robbery of an armored car depot, which was foiled by the FBI in 1999.

Turner isn’t one of the two men identified by the FBI as the actual robbers. George Reissfelder and Lenny DiMuzio are believed to have posed as police officers to gain access to the museum, tying up security guards and stealing 13 historic artworks by the likes of Johannes Vermeer and Rembrandt van Rijn worth an estimated $500 million. It remains the most valuable art crime in the nation’s history.

But Turner worked for local crime lord Carmello Merlino, the man suspected of having arranged the high-profile theft. Merlino died in prison in 2005, and DiMuzio and Resissfelder both died within a year of the Gardner robbery.

The FBI told Turner he was a Gardner suspect, and that he would receive leniency if he helped solve the crime, according to the Associated Press.

David Turner, suspect in the Isabella Stewart Gardner heist, has been released from prison.

David Turner, a suspect in the Isabella Stewart Gardner heist, has been released from prison.

At the time of his sentencing, Turner wrote a letter to Boston Magazine denying his involvement in the museum heist.

“They think that I was the person who committed the robbery, which is false,” he said. “They thought that if I was facing serious charges, I would be motivated to help facilitate the return of the paintings. Well, they got the serious charges against me, and now I am going to die in prison.”

Nevertheless, in 2016, the Boston Globe reported that Turner’s 38-year sentence had been reduced by seven years, speculating that the judge had done so in return for information connected to the stolen paintings.

In 2010, Turner wrote a letter from prison to Connecticut mobster Robert Gentile, long suspected of having information about the paintings’ whereabouts, asking him to help recover the artwork. Despite failing health and FBI raids on his home, Gentile has steadfastly denied knowledge of the crime. He was released from prison, where he was serving time on unrelated gun charges, in March.

 once displayed. Picture provided by the FBI showing the empty frames for missing paintings after the theft at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

An empty frame remains at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum where Rembrandt van Rijn’s The Storm on the Sea of Galilee was once displayed. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

With the reduction of his sentence, Turner was slated for release in 2025, but Judge Richard G. Stearns, who also presided over Turner’s original trial, vacated his prison term last month thanks to recent Supreme Court rulings that have changed federal sentencing guidelines.

At this week’s hearing, Stearns sentenced Turner to time served and placed him on probation for three years, noting that he “has done what I would expect from someone who did want to change his life,” according to the Globe.


Follow artnet News on Facebook:


Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.

Share

Article topics