Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn confirmed that former University of Kentucky basketball star Melvin Turpin apparently committed suicide. He was 49.|
Ginn confirmed the apparent suicide, but he would not say how Turpin took his life or whether he left a note.
The coroner said Turpin lived at the home with his wife, who was away for medical treatment. Neighbors say Kerry Turpin left a couple of weeks ago, and they have not seen her since.
Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said police responded to a personal injury report at Turpin's home at 337 Princess Arch Lane in the Masterson Station subdivision.
Neighbors gathered outside Turpin's home Thursday evening.
Reached by telephone Thursday, Joe B. Hall, who coached Turpin from 1981 to 1985, said he ran into Turpin three weeks ago at a pancake restaurant.
"He was outgoing and feeling great and looking great; he was his jovial self," Hall recalled. "It's hard for me to realize that this has happened. We loved each other. He was one of my boys. It hurts very deeply to hear this. He was a young man that everyone liked and everyone liked being around."
Hall said Turpin had been working as a security guard and "seemed to enjoy his work."
Former teammate Kenny Walker said Turpin was "an outstanding basketball player. But he was a beautiful spirit."
Walker said that Turpin had been diagnosed with diabetes a few years ago but seemed to be managing the disease well.
"Melvin was always a loveable giant," Walker said. "A guy that always had a smile on his face. Everybody who played with him absolutely adored him."
Ginn said Turpin was employed by UK on the security staff at the hospital.
Turpin, a Lexington native, was an all-state player at Bryan Station High School. The big man played a year at Fork Union prep school in Virginia before heading to UK, where he played center from 1980-81 to 1983-84. Turpin was drafted sixth in the 1984 NBA Draft by the Washington Bullets.
Turpin's son, Kiel, was a freshman basketball player last season at Lincoln College (Ill.). The 7-footer helped lead Lincoln to a junior-college Division II championship and received interest from several major college programs, including Kentucky. He wanted to join a Division I school before this coming season but has not yet picked a school.
Published in Lexington Herald-Leader on July 9, 2010