The aunt of a Biddeford woman who was found dead in her cell at the York County Jail Sunday morning wants authorities to provide answers about the circumstance surrounding her niece’s death.

Nicole Turner, 35, of Biddeford, was found dead in her cell at 6:30 a.m. Sunday. Maine State Police are investigating her death as a suspected overdose, Maine Department of Public Safety spokesperson Shannon Moss said.

An autopsy was conducted on Turner on Monday and the cause of her death is pending further studies, a spokesperson for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said, adding that it could take six to eight weeks before a cause of death can be determined.

Nicole Turner with her daughter Mercedes, who is now 12. Photo courtesy Peggy Turner

But Turner’s aunt, Peggy Turner of Lincoln, says there are questions about her niece’s death that need to be answered now – that Nicole Turner was more than just another statistic in the drug epidemic.

“I don’t want the jail and the public to pass her off as just another addict,” Turner said in a telephone interview Tuesday night.

Peggy Turner wants to know: was her niece going through withdrawal behind bars? Did she receive a medical and mental health examination? Was she being treated by medical staff? If it was an overdose, where did she get the drugs? What charges was she being held on?


“We have a ton of questions that are not being answered. This should all be on the record and accessible, there should be a trail,” Turner said.

The Maine State Police Major Crimes unit is investigating Turner’s death, including how and if she procured illegal drugs.

“That’s what the investigators are going to be looking at,” York County Sheriff William L. King Jr. said Tuesday.

“The York County Sheriff’s Office extends our condolences to Nicole Turner’s family,” King said in a statement issued Tuesday evening. “Nicole was provided, as all residents are, with 24-hour medical coverage and periodic mental health counseling.”

In addition to a statement, King released Turner’s sentencing and incarceration record to the Press Herald. The timeline shows how Nicole Turner ended up as an inmate at the York County Jail.

Nicole Turner had been incarcerated at the York County Jail since June 21. She was serving a 219-day sentence for four counts of violation of bail that included two counts of forgery, one misuse of ID, and violating her conditions of release, according to records King provided.


Turner was initially arrested on July 7, 2021, by Saco Police for four counts of violation of bail. She was sentenced to 15 months in jail on Feb. 23, 2022. Her case was then transferred to the Maine Department of  Corrections before her sentence was amended to 219 days. The reduced sentence resulted in her case being sent back to the county and she was returned to the Cumberland County Jail on April 6, 2022.

Turner was transferred to the York County Jail on June 21, which is where she died on Sunday.

King explained that Turner was returned to the York County Jail as part of an agreement York had with Cumberland County for housing female inmates. The two jails exchanged inmate populations about six months ago, with York sending its female inmates to Cumberland and Cumberland transferring special management inmates to York. The agreement ended in June, which resulted in Turner coming back to York.

King said his 32-bed female unit had 12 female inmates on Sunday.

Peggy Turner said she only found out that her niece’s death may have been a fatal overdose by reading it in the Press Herald. The state police and office of the medical examiner did not notify her family of the cause of death and an autopsy wasn’t performed until Monday, Turner said.

Maine State Police, however, said next of kin were notified of the death before it was made public. A state police detective found nothing suspicious in the investigation, said Moss, the spokesperson. King said his department did everything it could to locate relatives and family members, and contacted Nicole Turner’s sister and her boyfriend.


“We were supposed to be notified and get a copy of the toxicology report, we should have a list of drugs in her system,” Peggy Turner said. “I am still trying to piece together what happened.”

Nicole Turner, left, with her aunt, Peggy Turner, holding Nicole’s first child, her daughter Mercedes, now 12.

For now, Peggy Turner can only wonder how her niece’s life might have turned out if she had received the support from the state she needed as a child growing up in Old Orchard Beach.

Turner said that her niece suffered childhood trauma, including a sexual assault at the age of 14 while in foster care, among other challenges.

After high school, Nicole Turner studied to be a hairdresser. She went on to have three children, but is not married. The children – the oldest is 12 – were not living with her. She struggled with addiction for a number of years, though her aunt could not be more specific.

“She wasn’t just an addict. She was a prime example of how the system failed her,” Turner said. “This was a voice that cried out to be heard. … She kept telling me that no one would listen to her. This is not how I expected my niece to get peace. I just wanted to see her smiling again.”

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