Life sentence sought in CA slayings - Bonner County Daily Bee: Local News

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Life sentence sought in CA slayings

Suspect’s family maintains he is innocent

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Posted: Friday, December 14, 2012 10:00 am

SANDPOINT — Prosecutors are seeking a sentence of life without parole against a Cocolalla man implicated in a double homicide in California 17 years ago.

Christian Leonard Bunty Sr. is now being held without bail at the Bonner County Jail.

Bunty was being held in lieu of $1 million bail, but a judge in San Bernardino County, Calif., ordered him on Tuesday to be held without bail due to special circumstances in the killings.

Bonner County Magistrate Court Judge Barbara Buchanan agreed on Wednesday to order Bunty held without bail, court records show.

Bunty’s arrest on the California arrest warrant on Dec. 4  sent a jolt through the community. Bunty, founder of A-Team Excavating, is known by many and his family was active in the Boy Scouts of America.

Larry Purviance, Bunty’s legal counsel in pending extradition proceedings, released the following statement on Thursday:

“The family is in shock over this latest development, but more than ever, they have a fierce desire to work together to prove Christian’s innocence. I have been involved in several capital murder cases, and never have I seen a family and community gather around and unconditionally support the defendant like this family and this community.”

Prosecutors in California allege that Bunty and an accomplice murdered Mark Wayne Adamson and Joseph Gerald Riley in the summer of 1995.

Barstow Police detectives said the two alleged victims were planning to buy ephedrine from Bunty and James Linzy Franklin. Ephedrine is a stimulant used to manufacture methamphetamine.

But investigators contend the deal was a ruse to lure Adamson and Riley to a location where they were robbed and ultimately killed.

Bunty, 40, and Franklin, 41, are charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder and second-degree robbery. Franklin is already serving a life sentence without parole in connection with an unrelated homicide in Big Bear, Calif., in 2003.

San Bernardino Deputy District Attorney Julie Peterson subsequently filed two special circumstance allegations, which expose the defendants to the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

“We are not seeking death,” Peterson said on Thursday.

However, the prosecution is seeking a lifelong prison sentence because more than one person was slain and the killings occurred during the commission of a robbery, said Peterson.

Investigators are certain Adamson and Riley are dead because they have never been seen or heard from since going to meet up with Bunty and Franklin.

The location of the bodies of Adamson and Riley remains a mystery.

Barstow Police Det. Keith Libby said Bunty and Franklin had long been considered suspects in the killings. Repeated searches, which included excavations, were conducted on Bunty’s property in California, but no bodies were ever found.

The lack of bodies initially hampered prosecution, but Libby said advances have been made in obtaining convictions in cases where a victim’s body remains unaccounted for.

Additionally, as many as 150 people have been interviewed in connection with the disappearances and their statements have largely remained consistent despite the passage of time. Libby said investigators have developed other evidence in the case, but he declined to elaborate.

“It would be better to hold that close to our vest,” said Libby.

Bunty will challenge extradition to California, according to Purviance.

Another hearing on Bunty’s extradition proceedings is set for next month.

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  • Todd Allen posted at 5:21 pm on Sat, Dec 15, 2012.

    Todd Allen Posts: 210

    SS why are you assuming if he did the crime he won't do the time? Please enlighten us.

  • Barstow girl posted at 2:56 pm on Sat, Dec 15, 2012.

    Barstow girl Posts: 7

    @luv83864... Thank you for googling Barstow police and understanding what I have been trying to say. We have some good cops here in Barstow, but we have some dirty ones to. The newspaper never tells the whole story.

  • Tom Kelly posted at 12:55 pm on Sat, Dec 15, 2012.

    Tom Kelly Posts: 379

    Nothing happened to those things Sugar, but what happened to due process, you know the 5th Amendment. What happened to competent executive and judicial people doing their job. I agree with you if you do the crime expect the time, but if the shoe fits it is up to the police and prosecutors to proof it by finding evidence that allows the dead to speak.

  • SugarShane posted at 12:42 pm on Sat, Dec 15, 2012.

    SugarShane Posts: 200

    What happened to "do the crime, do the time", "if the shoe fits", "dead men tell no tales"

    Just wondering.

  • NewDawn posted at 8:56 pm on Fri, Dec 14, 2012.

    NewDawn Posts: 936


    Just wondering.

  • Luv83864 posted at 11:05 am on Fri, Dec 14, 2012.

    Luv83864 Posts: 702

    I did a google search of "Barstow Police" and I found many articles about corruption and very unprofessional service. However that being said this is now out do the police hands and into the courts. I hope justice prevails and I hope Mr. Bunty can be given the respect he deserves. Let his day court happen and hopefully his family can support each other throughout this. For those who have lost loved ones, I pray. It's hard to say what happened with no bodies recovers and the other man in jail for another homicide. He would not seem credible to me because he has something to gain. Anyway my sincere thoughts and prayers.
    One question if he would have posted bail would it have been taken back? I am unclear how Bonner County can make decisions to his bail when they don't have the information on the case? Is it just based on circumstances? I mean I doubt he would go anywhere. Innocent men don't usually run.