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A judge in Tennessee has dismissed charges against a Chattanooga woman who was convicted in 2019 of murdering a man 10 years earlier – when she was just 13 years old.
Hamilton County Judge Amanda Dunn on Tuesday dismissed first-degree murder and aggravated robbery convictions for Angel Bumpass, now 28 and a mother of two who was preparing to enter nursing school when she was arrested in 2018. She was convicted in 2019 of murdering Franklin Bonner, who was found tied to a table and chair in his home, apparently murdered during a robbery attempt.
“A conviction does not always mean justice,” Hamilton County District Attorney Coty Wamp said after the charges were dismissed, according to the Associated Press. “The way that Mr. Bonner was duct taped and killed in the ransacking of the home. In the state’s opinion, it is virtually impossible that a 13-year-old girl could have done this alone.”
At the time of Bonner’s murder, Angel would have been 13 years old, 5 feet tall, and just 80 pounds in weight. She told police she didn’t know anything about Bonner’s death and that she never met him or had been in his home.
Along with Angel, a man named Mallory Vaughn was arrested for Bonner’s murder, after his cousin – who was in federal prison for a bank robbery – claimed Vaughn had admitted to burglarizing Bonner’s home and binding the victim. The cousin later changed his story and said he had learned of the case through Detective Karl Fields, the original lead detective on the case who was later accused of sexually harassing a rape victim, tampering with evidence, and gross misconduct. The charges were dropped because of a lack of evidence.
Both Mallory Vaughn and Angel Bumpass said they didn’t know each other, yet they were tried together. The prosecution alleged that Angel’s fingerprints could only have been found on the duct tape if she was there when Bonner was killed; the defense argued that nine other fingerprints were also found on the duct tape and that Angel had been in school the day of the crime.
Angel was found guilty of a crime she allegedly committed when she was 13 years old and sentenced to life in prison, while Vaughn – who would have been 26 at the time of the murder – was found not guilty.
With one suspect found not guilty and another’s conviction overturned, DA Wamp said law enforcement would continue searching for the murderer.
“We know that there is at least one person responsible for this criminal offense who has not yet been located or identified as a suspect,” Wamp said. “It is my opinion that we must refocus our efforts on identifying the individual who did this.”