Linda Bonner sobbed into a loved one's shoulder as crime scene video of her husband's killing played on a court room projector screen during the second day of his alleged killer's trial Wednesday afternoon.
Franklin Bonner, 68, was found bound to a kitchen table and chair inside his ransacked home in the 4000 block of Enterprise Lane on Jan. 16, 2009. He had duct tape around his feet, arms and head, nose and mouth.
He died of suffocation, Hamilton County Medical Examiner Dr. James Metcalfe later determined.
Linda Bonner was the one who found him. She came home from work to find him lying on the kitchen floor. At first, she thought he was having a "spell" because he had been having some inner ear trouble, prosecutors said during opening statements Tuesday.
But as she got closer to him, she saw the tape.
She tried to cut the tape off his face with a knife.
"She wanted to see if he was still breathing, if he was still alive," prosecutors told the jury during opening statements. "He wasn't. He was unconscious. So she got her phone, and she called 911."
"Help! My baby!" she screamed. "Help me!"
She became hysterical.
Franklin Bonner was her second husband, but she'd known him since she was 16 years old, she testified Tuesday. They moved in together in 1975.
The day he was killed — it was a Friday — she picked up some steak sandwiches from a local restaurant during her lunch break at around 1:15 p.m. and went home to eat with him.
Franklin Bonner, who was retired, was in the kitchen ironing his pants, she said. They were planning to go out that night for a birthday party.
She stayed there for about 15 minutes before she hurried back off to work.
"He was in a back room. We didn't even give each other a smack," she said. "I said, 'Baby, I got to go.' Because I was late. I had to go."
Five o'clock came, and she went home.
"As I walked on in, my baby — my baby was on the floor," she said. "I just kept calling him. 'Baby! Baby! Baby!' And he wouldn't answer me. And I shake him. He wouldn't answer me."
Her voice trembling, out of breath, she detailed how she cut the tape off her husband's face.
"I said, 'Linda. You have to get that tape off of him.' So that's what I did. I went to the sink ... and I got the knife," she said. "And I started to cut. I started to cut. I said, 'Slow down. Don't cut him. Don't cut him.' I started cutting. It seems like I was cutting up, but they had so much tape on him."
The home was in disarray, police said. Crime scene photos showed the kitchen table overturned and cabinets opened with their contents strewn across the floor.
Police called it a robbery, though there was no sign of forced entry. Investigators collected several fingerprints from throughout the house and some strands of hair, but the case went cold up until 2018 when Franklin Bonner's granddaughter called prosecutors. District Attorney General Neal Pinkston reopened the case and, eventually, brought charges against 37-year-old Mallory Vaughn and 24-year-old Angel Bumpass, who was 13 years old at the time of the killing.
Two fingerprints collected from the duct tape did not initially return a match. But in 2018, they did. The match was for Bumpass.
Defense attorneys for both Vaughn and Bumpass argued the case relies heavily on the two prints found on the duct tape — something that could have been taken there by someone else, they noted — and statements made by a federal inmate who, they say, was trying to get a lesser sentence.
Vaughn cooperated with police early on and was cleared, they stated. He provided DNA samples, fingerprints and answered questions.
"None of that evidence matches my client," one of Vaughn's attorneys told the jury during opening statements on Tuesday. "None of it."
A Tennessee Bureau of Investigation scientist did indeed testify on Wednesday that Vaughn's prints were not found on the duct tape.
"There's a lot of loose ends in this case," one of Bumpass' attorneys said.
He asked the jury to pay attention to the testimonies of the witnesses.
"There's no mention of a girl being there, let alone a little girl," he said, describing his client as a quiet child who grew up in a strict household and kept to herself.
"You will hear testimony in this case that will say that there are holes and things left out of this investigation that will leave you with reasonable doubt," he said.