This Day In Infamy: A Mother Wrongly Convicted of Murder

Kristine Bunch, photographed during her incarceration

March 4, 1996 – A Decatur County jury deliberated only three hours before sentencing 22-year-old Kristine “Kristi” Bunch to 60 years in prison for the death of her son Anthony.

Although Prosecutor William O. Smith had not presented evidence of a motive during the trial, Indiana Fire Marshals Bryan Frank and James Skaggs asserted they’d found evidence “the fire was deliberately set, that accelerants had been used to cause the fire, that there were ‘pour patterns’ in the burned-out home where accelerants had been poured, and that the fire had started in two separate locations, one of which was the bedroom in which Anthony was sleeping.”

A report by William Kinard, a forensic chemist with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, had further substantiated those findings.

Ten years later, Bunch filed a petition challenging her conviction. It was then revealed that Kinard had initially disagreed with Skaggs and Frank’s conclusion of arson. However, key portions of the ATF chemist’s report were later deleted or altered in order to coincide with the opinions of the fire marshals.

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed Bunch’s conviction on March 21, 2012, and all charges were dropped later that year.

By then, she had already lost seventeen years of her life behind bars.

Kristine, who was pregnant at the time of her arrest, is a free woman today and has reconnected with the son she gave birth to in prison.

This Day in Infamy: Death was the Punishment for Poor Grades


People who knew father David Wayne Johnson, 50, described him as “an excellent employee who took an active interest in his son.” That “active interest” resulted in him beating the boy to death.

On Monday, March 4, 2002, Johnson received a call from one of his son’s teachers at Prarie Heights High School. The teacher wanted to touch base because he was concerned about Kyle’s performance in class, particularly since the freshman had recently moved in with his father and even transferred schools in an attempt to raise his grades. Apparently, the boy’s efforts had failed to meet expectationswith horrifying results.

After an altercation that went on for hours, David Johnson called 911 later that same night, explaining that he and Kyle had “a little fight.” Although the boy was unresponsive, David claimed he “didn’t hit him hard,” and his son was “just a 15-year-old kid who doesn’t want to go to school and doesn’t want to do homework and he laughs at everything I say.”

Kyle was airlifted to a local hospital, but it was too late. He was DOA.

His father later confessed to slapping, kicking and punching Kyle. He further admitted that, after Kyle had been knocked to the ground, he rolled the boy onto his stomach, sat on his back, and punched him in the back of the head. A ligature of some kind was used to choke the teen. An autopsy would eventually determine his cause of death was a lascerated liver caused by blunt force trauma and strangulation.

David Johnson was initially offered a plea deal by LaGrange County Prosecutor Tim Cain which could have resulted in the killer serving only five years with time off for good behavior. Judge George E. Brown rejected that plea as too lenient, and Johnson was subsequently offered another deal. On November 6, 2002, he pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in exchange for a sentence of twenty years in prison.

“I don’t think he meant to kill Kyle,” the teen’s mother, Terry Stephenson, said after her ex-husband’s appearance in court. “But he did.”




Sources:
1. Stoner, Andrew E. Notorious 92. Bloomington, Rooftop Publishing, 2007.
2. https://www.kpcnews.com/article_a7fb56b3-80a2-5c2e-b465-4fb28cee5515.html
3. https://www.kpcnews.com/article_c0502e11-4c9c-5c4b-be3f-a2d9e0f0bf7c.html