Kristine Bunch was only 22 in 1996 when she was charged with the murder of her 3-year-old son, Anthony, who died in a house fire in Decatur County, Indiana. She was exonerated in 2012 after serving 17 years of a 60-year sentence.
Bunch spoke to reporter Daisy Contreras about the journey to proving her innocence, reconnecting with her now 23-year-old son, and putting the pieces of her life back together.
During this time, you were pregnant and you had just lost a baby. What was going through your mind?
I mean, I think you're just in shock. You don't you realize what's happening. Until all of a sudden, you're slammed in the face with it and you realize, “Oh, my God, this just happened.” This just happened because everything's been wiped out, torn away from you. And you're, devastated in that moment. So, there's no way to really focus on everything that's happening around you.
How are you putting the pieces back together now? You left prison and the child that you had while you were there is now an adult. How do you make up for the lost time?
You can’t. There's absolutely no way. We did a lot of counseling together to try to work on a relationship, because he felt like I wanted him to go back and be little again so that I could see it. And in a lot of ways I did. But it comes to a place where you need to accept that you're never going to get that back. And I need to concentrate on what I have with him right now. And I'm glad that you know at 23 he calls me a friend and I get to meet his girlfriends, hear what's going on and I can't ask for more.
Speaking of healing and the process to accepting what happened, have you forgiven or moved past, you know, those people who worked on your case and made that mistake?
On a good day I would say that there is some level of forgiveness there. Most days, I'm not there. I can't ever be there. Because someone falsified a report and stole those years from me, stole them from my family, stole them from my child. So, for me, I know if I was in a job, and I made a mistake, I would be held accountable for it. It makes no sense to me that we have law enforcement experts, [that] we have blood spatter experts, fire science experts— all these people that are experts. And we don't hold them accountable when they make a mistake.
The Illinois Innocence Project is hosting a round-table discussion with Bunch on Wednesday, October 23 at noon at the UIS Student Union.