Childrearing

An Indiana Mom Convicted In Her Son’s Death Was Released From Jail — And I Have Mixed Feelings

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released from jailKristine Bunch has been in prison for 16 years, implicated in the death of her 3-year-old son. Now, she’s walking out on bond to the waiting arms of her mother. The story was that she set her Greensburg mobile home on fire, poured accelerate in her toddler’s room and let the little boy die. It is a horrific tale. And because it happened in my home state, it’s a story that I am exceedingly familiar with.

Greensburg is a couple hours south of my city, Fort Wayne, but the story of Bunch and the death  of her son was statewide news for quite a while. The death happened in 1995 and the case went before a jury in 1996. The entire time, Bunch maintained that she was completely innocent of any crime. I was just a kid at the time of Bunch’s trial, but I watched the news each night with my father. I remember this case.

Kristine Bunch was a young women, just 22-years-old at the time. The prosecutors brought up instances where Bunch had asked a friend to take custody of her child, saying that she needed to “get away from it all.” They pointed out inconsistencies in her story to the police and what she later claimed about that night. I have to admit, the stories at the time were pretty damning.

Now, the Center on Wrongful Convictions has taken up the case. They have new technology and understanding of arson. They say that since 3-year-old Troy died from smoke inhalation, it proves that the fire wasn’t actually started in the little boy’s bedroom.

Kristine Bunch has won an appeal. She was released from jail on bond and is awaiting another trial for her son’s death 16 years ago. Her attorneys seem confident that with new information and research available, they’ll be able to prove that the fire wasn’t arson. That Bunch did not intentionally kill her child.

I’m happy to see a woman get another chance at justice. I’m happy that the Center on Wrongful Convictions gives people the resources they need to really make their case. Honestly, I’m happy for Kristine Bunch and the idea that justice will always win out, if all this information is correct and she really didn’t set that fire.

And then, there’s this small part of me that cannot help but be terrified by this woman. I know it sounds silly, but I was 10 and 11 when this trial took place. I was just really starting to pay attention to the world around me, hence the news watching with my dad. And I remember seeing Kristine Bunch on the television and thinking that she was evil. I remember being appalled by the mother who set her house on fire with her toddler inside. At that time, Kristine Bunch was one of the first times I looked outside my own sheltered life and realized that there were bad mothers in the world who hurt their children.

We all have news items that make a big impression on us. They aren’t always the most widely publicized or well-known. Kristine Bunch and the death of her beautiful baby boy made an impact on me. And to hear that after all this time, that impression that was fed might have been false is really troubling. It’s scary.

I’m not sure how I’ll feel as I watch this trial a second time. I’m not sure how my views will change. But I do know that the original case had a big impact on me, and it will be difficult to relive it all over again. I simply cannot imagine how much more difficult it will be for Bunch.

(Photo: H. Brauer/Shutterstock)