GREENSBURG, Ind. (AP) — Kristine Bunch hugged her mother and her teenage son, basking in the warm Indiana sunshine for the first time Wednesday afternoon following 16 years behind bars for a murder she said all along she didn't commit.
Jailers released the grinning 38-year-old woman, who had traded her olive green jail clothes for a new dress, less than a half-hour after a Decatur County judge granted her $5,000 cash bail at the suggestion of prosecutors. The state plans to try her again on murder and arson charges for the 1995 fire that killed her 3-year-old son.
The whirlwind that followed her arrest in 1996, when she was accused of setting the blaze that destroyed her Greensburg mobile home and claimed her son Tony's life, seemed like a bad dream at the time, Bunch said. "I was in shock," she said.
Being released from prison was like a dream, too, but "in a good way," she said.
"Now, it's like I can't believe it's happening," Bunch said.
The Indiana Court of Appeals last week ordered the local court to allow Bunch's release on bond while she awaits her second trial. The appeals court ordered a new trial in March, finding that the evidence used to convict her was outdated, weak and wrongly withheld from the defense.
Bunch's attorney, Ron Safer, said prosecutors "did exactly the right thing" by asking for a low bond, but he was disappointed they still planned another trial in light of scientific advances that he said suggest there was no real evidence of arson.
Prosecutors have had little to say except that they are seeking a gag order to restrict attorneys' public comments on the case. A hearing on their request is scheduled for Aug. 30, and Bunch was ordered to attend.
In the meantime, Bunch said she will live with her 58-year-old mother, Susan Hubbard, and her 16-year-old son, Trenton, in nearby Columbus, Ind. The family was taking Bunch out Wednesday night for her first meal besides prison food in years, at a seafood restaurant in Columbus.
Bunch said she looked forward to doing the everyday things that most people take for granted, like shopping, eating out, and using the Internet, which she has never seen.
"I can learn how to Facebook," she said. "All my friends tell me they're on Facebook."