Supporters rally for Bunty’s release

SANDPOINT — More than 20 people showed up in court Friday to support a Cocolalla man implicated in an alleged double homicide in California.

Christion Leonard Bunty’s friends, family and coworkers were also prepared to post a $1 million bond to secure his release, but a Bonner County Magistrate Court judge declined to set bail due to the severity of the charges against him.

The hearing was to determine the status of gubernatorial warrants needed to extradite Bunty back to San Bernardino County, Calif., to face two counts of first-degree murder.

Bonner County Prosecutor Louis Marshall advised the court that a governor’s warrant out of California was pending a review by that state’s office of attorney general.

Bunty, also known as Christian Bunty, is being held without bail because prosecutors in California are seeking a life sentence without parole.

Bunty’s counsel in the extradition proceedings, Larry Purviance, urged Judge Barbara Buchanan to release his client or set bail. Purviance emphasized that there is no evidence that Bunty is a flight risk and he was not in California when the criminal complaint was filed.

“There are several things about this case that are very troubling,” Purviance added.

Purviance said authorities in California have been unresponsive to defense requests for information in the criminal case, which hamstrings his ability to test the validity of the arrest warrant. An alleged accomplice in the killings, James Linzy Franklin, is already serving a lifelong prison term for an unrelated homicide.

Purviance said investigators told his client they doubted he carried out the murders.

“They confided to him that they didn’t think he did it,” said Purviance.

Purviance argued that the court had ample discretion to discharge or set bail, but Buchanan declined to release Bunty and said she is prohibited by statute from setting bond.

“Because of the severity of the crime, I don’t think I can set bond,” said Buchanan.

Buchanan ordered Bunty held for up to another 30 days and set a Feb. 5 status hearing on the extradition proceedings.

Bunty, 40, and Franklin, 41, are accused of luring two men to their deaths in 1995 by offering to sell them ephedrine, an ingredient used to cook methamphetamine. Mark Wayne Adamson and Joseph Gerald Riley were never seen again after leaving to meet with Bunty and Franklin.

The remains of the alleged murder victims have never been recovered.

Idaho State Police arrested Bunty on the California arrest warrant last month.

Bunty’s family and friends lambasted media coverage of the case after Friday’s hearing and contended he is the victim of a vendetta by corrupt investigators in California.

Bunty’s mother, Kathleen, said her son is incapable of murder.

“He doesn’t have that kind of heart,” she said.

Supporters said Bunty is a model husband, father and son who plows people’s driveways for free, donates to a number of charitable causes and is active in both the community and his church.

“He’s an honorable man,” said Bunty’s wife, Heather.

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