Home World Waukegan alderman’s post of severed arm a tasteless move

Waukegan alderman’s post of severed arm a tasteless move


There’s bad taste, and then there’s really, really bad taste. It’s safe to say Keith Turner, a Waukegan alderman, exhibited the latter last week when he posted a photo of a severed arm on social media.

The human body part discovered on a Waukegan beach is believed to belong to Sade Robinson, 19, a student at the Milwaukee Area Technical College, who disappeared in early April. DNA testing is soon expected to make the link to Robinson, who would have turned 20 on May 10.

Other remains believed to be Robinson’s have been found in the Milwaukee area. She met Maxwell Anderson, 33, for a first-date dinner and has been missing ever since, authorities said.

Milwaukee police have charged him in her death, mutilating a corpse and arson for allegedly torching her car. Anderson is in custody in lieu of $5 million bail, and has pleaded not guilty to Robinson’s killing.

Just the queasy mental image after hearing about the discovery of an arm severed at the shoulder is enough for most of us, but apparently not for the longtime 6th Ward alderman who posted the body-part picture.

Turner, along with a few others, have announced challenges to Mayor Ann Taylor’s re-election in next year’s city election.

His shameful posting of the grisly find along Waukegan’s beachfront, 53 miles from Milwaukee, is another cautionary tale about the use of social media in today’s Wild West of cyberspace. Not everything needs to be placed on Facebook or online. Or as a click-bait offering.

But Turner thought it did. It has since disappeared from his “Friends of Keith Turner” Facebook page.

Yet five days ago, it was up along with a running commentary trying outlandishly to tie Taylor to the body part: “Shocking discovery at Waukegan Beach! A severed arm found, but no report or mention from the administration. What’s the story behind this mysterious incident?”

That bit of exploitative journalistic tease would make any British tabloid editor proud. Members of Sade Robinson’s family, though, found the posting of what is believed to be their daughter’s severed arm a disgusting thing to do.

Most right-thinking people would agree. Others might wonder about the disturbing logic behind plastering a photograph of a dismembered portion of human anatomy for any and all to see.

Robinson’s mother, Sheena Scarbrough, wondered to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel why a “professional person” would post something like that. “We’re dealing with trauma,” Scarbrough said.

A GoFundMe launched to help pay for Robinson’s funeral has raised nearly $50,000, according to the Journal Sentinel newspaper.

In a statement, Mayor Taylor echoed the family’s sentiment: “On behalf of the City of Waukegan, I find the posting of an image of this type to be morally disgusting, socially irresponsible, and extremely cruel to the victim’s family.”

Turner’s City Council colleagues seem to concur. A vote on censuring him for the unconscionable action is slated for the June 3 council session.

Many journalists, myself included, have reached out to Turner to get a comment and give him a chance to explain his thinking about posting the photograph. He’s apparently dodging us because he can’t come up with a sound answer.

Turner can’t hide forever, especially if he’s an announced candidate for mayor. He’ll have to expound eventually about how a seasoned, elected official thought it was appropriate to post a human body part on social media. He remained mum at this week’s council meeting as mention of censure arose.

He also needs to clarify where the photo came from. Waukegan police were called May 11 to the city beach in the 200 block of Sea Horse Drive at around 8:30 p.m., by someone walking along the shoreline who saw the arm by a fallen tree.

Taylor has been clear that the city didn’t provide Turner with the photograph. “He was never given permission to post the photo on his Facebook page,” she added in a statement. Individual aldermen are not authorized to speak on behalf of the city, much less for the police department, she noted.

“The City of Waukegan does not comment on active criminal investigations, especially in cases where the city is not the lead agency,” Taylor said in the statement. “This policy is intended to preserve the investigation’s integrity and respect the privacy of victims and their families.

“That is why no public statements were made until Alderman Keith Turner posted a graphic photo of the remains on his Facebook account,” she said.

At the very least, Turner owes the Robinson family a sincere apology. Constituents in the 6th Ward, who should be outraged he represents them, deserve an explanation, as do city residents and investigators from Waukegan and Milwaukee.

After this stunt, he also needs to end his quest for mayor. Lake County’s largest city and county seat doesn’t need a loose cannon posting willy-nilly online.

Charles Selle is a former News-Sun reporter, political editor and editor. 

[email protected]

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