Defense Attorneys Say State Has Wrong Suspects In 2009 Murder Of "Lottery Man"

  • Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Mallory Vaughn
Mallory Vaughn

Defense attorneys told a Criminal Court jury on Tuesday that the state has the wrong suspects in the 2009 murder of the "lottery man" in the Washington Hills subdivision.

Attorney Garth Best said Angel Bumpass would have been just 13 years old at the time of the slaying of Franklin "Cookie" Bonner on Jan. 16, 2009. He said she does not know the other person on trial, Mallory Vaughn, who would have been 26 at the time.

Attorney Best said Ms. Bumpass, who is now 23, "was charged with a crime she had no knowledge of. Her life has been turned upside down." He said she was raised by her grandparents in a strict environment and has never been to the Bonner home.

Franklin Bonner, 68, was found by his wife bound with duct tape. The medical examiner said the tape was over his mouth and nose and he could not breathe so he suffocated.

Prosecutor Cameron Williams told the jury in the courtroom of Judge Tom Greenholtz that fingerprints were taken from the duct tape at the time of the slaying, but there were no matches. He said a new detective on the case, Michael Ray, had the prints rerun and this time two of them came back a match to Ms. Bumpass.

He said a federal inmate, Nicholas Cheaton, told authorities that Vaughn confessed to him that he killed the victim at his home. The defense said Cheaton lied to get his prison time cut.

Attorney Kevin Loper said Vaughn cooperated with the investigation, saying, "He wanted his name cleared." He said none of the evidence from the scene is tied to him.

He said, "The truth is no one in this room can tell you what happened to Mr. Bonner." 

Officer Mike Russ, who is still with the Chattanooga Police Department, told of responding to a call of a possible home invasion at 4707 Enterprise Lane.

He said he found the victim bound in a chair that he had knocked to the floor. He said he did not show any sign of life.

Desi Lawrence, next door neighbor to the Bonners for 17 years, told of sitting in his easy chair watching TV and hearing someone ringing his doorbell and banging on the door at the same time. He said it was Linda Bonner, who was hysterical and in a panic. 

He said she stated, "Help me. They're killing my husband."

Mr. Lawrence, a former McKee Bakery truck driver, said he got his gun and went over to check to see if anyone was still inside. He said he touched the neck of the victim and got no pulse. He said, "I told my wife, 'He's dead.' "

He said police were beginning to arrive so he laid his gun down for fear of being shot. He said he was not able to get it back until later.

The state played the 911 call of Linda Williams Bonner, who was so hysterical that the operator kept asking her to try to calm down.

Ms. Bonner said she had come home from her job at Goodwill Industries for a brief lunch that day. She said her husband was ironing because they had been invited to a birthday party that evening. She said someone in a drive thru line ahead of her had taken too much time so that left her with just a short time to eat. She said she left quickly. "I didn't even give him a smack."

Ms. Bonner returned after work and found her husband's car there. She said she was surprised because he should have been "on the route to pick the numbers up." She said he did that seven days a week with the results tied to the Illinois lottery.

She said she first thought he had fallen from his inner ear problem, then she saw he had been bound with duct tape. She sobbed, "My Baby was on the floor. I just kept calling him, 'Baby, Baby, Baby,' but he wouldn't answer me."

Ms. Bonner said she did not return to the house until seven months later.

She was questioned about the couple selling marijuana out of the house. She said her husband would buy a pound at a time, then sell it "to working people for recreational use" in 20s, 40s and OZs (ounces). She said they were careful to only sell it to people they knew and would often deliver so there would not be so many cars coming and going.

She told of a safe kept in the house and the fact she was the only one with the combination. Not even her husband knew it.

The witness said one of the marijuana customers was Shirley Bumpass, grandmother of Angel Bumpass.

She said another was "Ms. Peggy" who lived on Rosemary Circle. Defense attorney Boyd Patterson pointed out that Ms. Peggy is the grandmother of Jerry "Dough Boy" Martin and not Mallory Vaughn.






Angel Bumpass
Angel Bumpass
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