Greensburg woman jailed in son's death closer to freedom

Kristine Bunch

An innocent woman may be behind bars. Defense attorneys believe Kristine Bunch deserves a new trial.

Bunch already won an appeal claiming the evidence was flawed in the arson case that sent her to prison.

Now state prosecutors are seeking a review from the State Supreme Court.

Sixteen years behind bars as inmate number 966069, Kristine Bunch has never been closer to freedom. She sat down with 13 Investigates for an exclusive interview weeks after her attorneys made her appeal last August.

"It's hard when you're convicted, to still keep saying ,'But I didn't.' It's like you don't think anyone's going to believe that," she told 13 Investigates from the Indiana Women's Prison.

Wednesday, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled her 1996 arson and murder conviction for the mobile home fire that killed her three-year-old son Tony should be tossed out, and that Bunch should get a new trial.

In its ruling, the appeals court said new evidence that suggests the fire started in the ceiling should be heard. The court also says the State withheld a test report from the ATF.

It's news she's wanted for years.

"You teeter between hope, excitement, anger, fear," Bunch said, describing her emotions over the years.

In a statement the Indiana Attorney General's office says:

"The State respectfully disagrees with the majority's opinion and largely agrees with the dissenting opinion's analysis of the issues. In the State's view, Bunch is not entitled to a new trial. The State is carefully examining the lengthy opinion in order to determine whether to ask the Court of Appeals to rehear the case, or to seek further review in the Indiana Supreme Court. The State has 30 days to file a petition for rehearing or transfer."

Now, 13 Investigates has learned state prosecutors are calling for a review of that decision by the Indiana Supreme Court.

"We've been talking with the Attorney General's office about requesting transfer to the State Supreme Court," said Decatur County Prosecutor Jim Rosenberry, who added that his office "made it clear that we would like to do that. They're just getting all the details at this point."

Neighbors now living in the same mobile home park where Kristine Bunch once lived say justice has always been about money.

"A lot of time it's about money. Whether they have money for a good enough attorney and they keep sitting there waiting for mercy," said Sean Smith.

Attorneys working with the Northwestern University Center for Wrongful Conviction have spent countless hours free of charge, pushing for a new trial.

"It's indescribable. I never thought anyone would step up to help me, and now I have more lawyers than I can name and more investigators. People that I've never ever met," Bunch told 13 Investigates.

The Indiana Attorney General's office has 30 days to ask for a rehearing by the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court, or to transfer the case back to Decatur County for re-trial.

If Decatur County declines to prosecute, Bunch will be set free and the case will be dismissed.

Case background

Investigators said the fire was deliberately set. They found burn patterns and evidence of an accelerant.

But attorneys for Kristine Bunch and Northwestern University's Center for Wrongful Conviction argued the evidence is based on outdated fire investigation techniques.

13 Investigates first uncovered problems with arson cases in 2008 based on what experts now call "junk science."

In its ruling, the Indiana Court of Appeals cited new reports showing Tony died from high levels of carbon monoxide, suggesting the fire started in the ceiling.

The court also found the State violated rules by not turning over burn tests from the ATF.