Charges cleared against woman convicted in 1995 arson that killed son

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A local woman charged with arson and the death of her 3-year-old son was cleared of the charges against her Tuesday.

Kristine Bunch was previously convicted of the charges in 1995 and has spent the past 16 years in prison. Prosecutors claimed Bunch poured kerosene through the linoleum-floored bedroom in which her son, Tony, was found and into the living room of the trailer before lighting a match. Bunch’s son had 80 percent carbon monoxide level in his blood.

In March 2012, the Indiana Court of Appeals granted Bunch a new trial and allowed a vacated conviction.  Her attorney, Ron Safer, argued arson science is drastically different than it was in 1995.  He stated there was overwhelming evidence that proves Bunch could not have set the fire.  The attorney said the evidence includes advances in the field of fire victim toxicology, which allegedly proves the fire could not have been set in the way prosecutors argued it did.  Additionally, Safer argued there were errors committed by Bunch’s trial counsel.

Bunch’s attorneys and the Northwestern Center on Wrongful Convictions released the following statement Tuesday:

“We are extremely happy that the State has dismissed the charge against Kristine.  She is innocent.  As the Indiana Appellate Court ruled months ago, a jury hearing all of the evidence likely would have found Kristine not guilty.

We do not condemn the State for bringing arson-related charges in 1995.  That was the equivalent of the Stone Ages for arson investigations.  Today we know so much more about the science of fire.  As the new evidence offered by world-renowned experts showed, Kristine could not have set this fire as the State contended.  The fire was accidental.  

Prosecutors who recognize and act on advances in science, like the revolutionary advances in fire investigations or DNA evidence, should be praised.  The public expects and is entitled to justice, not convictions that are wrongful.  Those who stubbornly persist in obtaining convictions in the face of powerful new evidence abuse their power and bring shame and dishonor on their office as well as the community they are supposed to serve.

Kristine lost her precious son Tony in this accidental fire.  She then lost 16 years of her freedom.  The depth of that tragedy is unthinkable.  Today is the first day she can begin to heal.”

bunch son tony                                                                                                                                                                                                  Bunch’s son, Tony.

2 comments

  • Indy Resident

    Today is the first day of the rest of your life Kristine. I know there is so much to do and catch up on with what was taken from you. I hope you will be able to move on now and know that you'll be with Tony again someday. Enjoy your family & your friends now for they are the true ones who knew you were and always was innocent. Gods speed and peace be with you all the days of your life.

  • Indy Resident

    To Mr. Ron Safer, Thank-you sir for believing in Kristine's innocents. It's lawyers like you who make the others shine. This is an epic triumph for all involved including our judicial system. A real eye opener for others. I know in my heart that we as a society, have prosecuted innocent people who are still imprisoned or even died a prisoner at the hands of bad science or inefficiencies of knowledge or even Hell Bent Prosecutors. My hope is that others like Kristine, will have lawyers such as yourself, to defend and fight for their freedom of being wrongfully accused and prosecuted for something they are innocent of. God speed to you as well Mr Safer.

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