Kristine Bunch of Indiana was granted a new trial after 16 years in prison for the murder of her 3-year-old son and will not be tried again — at least not for now, the Indianapolis Star reports. A prosecutor yesterday dismissed a murder charge against Bunch, 38, but said the case was still under investigation. The latest legal maneuvers leave a cloud over Bunch nearly 17 years after her son died in a fire she was accused of setting, her attorney Ron Safer said. He said Bunch is not speaking publicly about the case at this time. Safer teamed with the Center for Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University to champion Bunch's fight for acquittal. Bunch was 22 when she was sentenced in 1996 to 60 years in prison after being convicted of intentionally setting fire to a house trailer that killed her young son in 1995.
The Indiana Court of Appeals ordered a new trial for Bunch, citing fire toxicology evidence that was not available at the time of her trial in 1996. Prosecutors had claimed she used an accelerant to start the fire. A new team of defense attorneys who took up her case in 2007 showed that if the fire had been set using an accelerant, her son would have died of burns rather than carbon monoxide poisoning, as an autopsy showed. William Smith, who prosecuted the original case, said there was other evidence pointing to her guilt. He questioned the ethics of the Center for Wrongful Convictions' pursuit of publicity in its push for an acquittal, which included a segment about Bunch's plight on the ABC television program “20/20.”