Updated at 9:17 p.m. on Tuesday, June 12, 2018.
Franklin Bonner was a public servant, a loving father who brought cowbells to his daughter's softball games and a master of ceremonies who sometimes wore a pink suit to events. But on Jan. 16, 2009, a month shy of his 19th wedding anniversary, the 68-year-old was bound, gagged, robbed and then died in his Washington Hills home.
For nearly nine years, his case went unsolved — until this week, prosecutors say.
A grand jury returned indictments against Mallory Aunte Vaughn, 36, for felony murder and especially aggravated robbery in Bonner's slaying, Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston announced Tuesday. Vaughn is on the run and believed to be in Hamilton County.
The prosecutor's cold case unit reopened the case earlier this year after Bonner's granddaughter, Ciera Wilkes, called the district attorney's office on his death anniversary, Pinkston said. The grand jury returned its indictments Monday, and authorities have been searching for Vaughn for the past few weeks.
Authorities also took a second person into custody in connection with the crime, Pinkston said. But because she was a minor at the time of the crime, her name will not be released unless her case is transferred to Criminal Court.
"I feel wonderful to finally know they are going to get what they deserve for killing my husband," Linda Bonner said Tuesday, "but no one can take away the pain that we have suffered for nearly 10 years."
According to a news release from Pinkston's office, Bonner was bound and gagged inside a house at 4707 Enterprise Lane on Jan. 16, 2009. Linda Bonner came home late in the afternoon and found him with duct tape wrapped over his mouth and nose, which caused him to suffocate and die. Franklin Bonner worked for Chattanooga's Department of Public Works for 31 years, his family said.
Pinkston said Tuesday there was no familial relationship between Bonner and Vaughn. But according to booking reports for previous arrests, Pinkston said, Vaughn stayed at a home about a block away from Bonner. Pinkston's release said Bonner sold marijuana and was known to have cash on him.
"He was a wonderful, fun-loving, kind-hearted man [who] did not deserve to die the way he did," Linda Bonner said Tuesday. "[The alleged killers] said they didn't know what they were doing, but I cut the tape off him, I know they did. They meant to kill my husband."
Pinkston said developments from new and old interviews contributed to this week's indictment. He declined to say who the new interviews were with, adding that defense attorneys can learn that information in the evidence-exchanging process known as discovery.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Vaughn did not have a listed court date or lawyer. But his name was one of at least five that came up during the initial investigation into Bonner's death, Pinkston said.
Linda Bonner said she and her husband, who was born and raised in Chattanooga, were together for 43 years. They married in Georgia in 1990, she said. So when he died, she didn't just lose a best friend and life partner.
"They took my anniversary away from me. It was Feb. 10, and they killed him Jan. 16," she said.
Standing beside her family at Tuesday's announcement, Stephanie Penson compared her relationship with her father to a flower.
"It started as a seed, and my father grew up with me from day one," Penson said. "I used to play sports for [the Howard School], and he would come with his cowbell and all my friends would cut up with me about it. But that was my dad. Whatever he did, I honored it. He was the one who I looked up to."
Penson's favorite memory? When he was about 50 years old, Franklin "Kookie Man" Bonner tried break dancing in Virginia while visiting family and friends.
"I wish he was still alive so I could say, 'Man, what did you think you were doing?'" Penson said.
Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at email@example.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.
Correction: A previous version of this story stated Bonner's granddaughter called the district attorney, but it was his granddaughter.