Suspect's girlfriend says he's innocent in 2009 slaying; DA's office says there's evidence

Suspect's girlfriend says he's innocent in 2009 slaying; DA's office says there's evidence

June 14th, 2018 by Staff Report in Breaking News

Linda Bonner holds onto a photo of her late husband Franklin Augustus Bonner during a press conference at the Newell Towers on Tuesday.

Photo by Erin O. Smith

This story was updated at 6:57 p.m. on Thursday, June 14, 2018, with more information.

Mallory Aunte Vaughn

Mallory Aunte Vaughn

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

A 36-year-old man just indicted in a 2009 cold case turned himself in to authorities Wednesday, though his girlfriend claims he's innocent, alleging he was already cleared by law enforcement nearly a decade ago.

Mallory Aunte Vaughn "cooperated with [authorities] back when this happened," Carmeisha Jones, 30, said Thursday. "He went to the station, gave his fingerprints and then someone called him and told him it didn't match."

Jones said her boyfriend of 15 years, who does construction work and has a 9-year-old daughter with a second child on the way, turned himself in to the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office Fugitive Division on Wednesday, a day after prosecutors held a news conference to announce his charges.

Chattanooga defense attorney David Barrow confirmed he escorted Vaughn to authorities around 1:25 p.m. Wednesday. According to the Hamilton County Jail, Vaughn remains in custody on a $10,000 bond for a probation violation. He is also charged with felony murder and especially aggravated robbery, neither of which had listed bond amounts.

Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston said Tuesday a grand jury returned criminal indictments against Vaughn for the slaying of Franklin Bonner, 68, who was found bound in his home with duct tape around his mouth on Jan. 16, 2009. After one of Bonner's relatives called prosecutors on his death anniversary this year, Pinkston said he reopened the case and used new developments in old and new interviews to bring charges against Vaughn and a second individual who was a juvenile at the time.

In a phone interview Thursday, Jones said she and her family don't know who the second person is. She said Vaughn has some criminal charges on his record — marijuana possession, driving on a suspended license, and vandalism and criminal impersonation — but no robberies.

When Bonner was killed, Jones said Vaughn spoke with authorities. "When he first went down there, [law enforcement] said that his cousin [told law enforcement] that he picked Mallory up from a hotel with a lot of money, which was false," Jones said.

Around that time, she said, someone from law enforcement called and told Vaughn the fingerprint didn't match. She said Vaughn didn't speak with any investigators when they reopened the case around January and wasn't sure whether he'd be facing charges but didn't flee.

Jones said she spoke with one detective who asked if she knew a man that's in prison.

During Tuesday's news conference, Pinkston didn't describe Vaughn as a suspect but said his name was one of at least five that came up during the initial investigation. There is no statute of limitations on murder, meaning prosecutors can bring a murder case years after the fact.

Pinkston's spokeswoman, Melydia Clewell, said prosecutors sent fingerprints and other evidence to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for testing. Clewell said she didn't know whether local authorities sent Vaughn's fingerprints to the agency around 2009.

"All I can tell you is that we have physical evidence, which led us to these suspects," she wrote in an email.

The TBI could not be reached for comment, but it often doesn't comment on pending cases.

Vaughn does not have a listed court date for his murder case, nor was his indictment available Thursday. He is due before General Sessions Court Judge Gary Starnes on Monday for alleged probation violations on two cases from 2014.

"If they felt they had enough of a statement, if he had said anything, don't you feel like they should have done this nine years ago?" Jones asked.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.


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