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Sheriff: Minister 'Got Away With Murder'

Posted January 4, 2007
Updated January 5, 2007

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— A plea deal that allows a minister who killed his wife to serve no more than seven years in prison amounts to getting away with murder, the Richmond County sheriff said Thursday.

Melvin Bynum, 45, pleaded guilty Wednesday to voluntary manslaughter in the strangulation death of 40-year-old Marnita Bynum, his wife of 19 years.

Authorities found the body of Marnita Bynum, a substitute teacher, in the trunk of her Chrysler Sebring convertible, which had been abandoned on a rural road north of Hamlet on Aug. 2, 2004.

Under his plea agreement, Bynum was sentenced to 64 to 86 months in prison. He has already spent more than two years behind bars, having been held in the Richmond County Jail since his arrest in September 2004.

Judge David Lee on Tuesday rejected a plea agreement that would have carried a sentence of no more than five years in prison. Lee said he wanted more discretion in sentencing after listening to testimony from Marnita Bynum's relatives about the impact of her slaying.

Bynum, the pastor of Cry Out Loud Ministries in Sanford, originally was charged with first-degree murder in the case and could have faced the death penalty if convicted on that charge.

Richmond County Sheriff Dale Furr, who led the investigation into Marnita Bynum's death, said he protested the plea deal when prosecutors informed him about it earlier this week. Investigators had compiled enough evidence to convict Bynum of first-degree murder, he said.

"I strongly opposed that plan," Furr said of the plea deal. “(It says) that you can possibly get away with murder. That's exactly what happened.”

The prosecutor handling the case was concerned that a key witness refused to testify against Bynum, Furr said. However, he said he believes the witness would have testified if she faced charges in the case.

“I think she possibly could have and would have been charged as an accessory,” Furr said.

Richmond County District Attorney Michael Parker issued a statement late Tuesday defending the decision to offer Bynum a deal in the case.

"Although a massive investigation was conducted into Ms. Bynum's death, neither the sheriff's office nor the state can manufacture evidence. We can only present what is found," the statement said. "The defendant's plea to voluntary manslaughter is consistent with the facts provable by the state, given the circumstances surrounding Marnita's death."

Peg Dorer of the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys said it's not necessarily what someone thinks, but what can be proven in court. Some cases lack credible witnesses or physical evidence, she said.

“Sometimes cases 'go south.' At that point, DAs must salvage what they can,” Dorer said.

Furr said he realizes the case is the DA's to prosecute, but he said investigators should have gotten a chance to make the case against Bynum. That chance has passed.

"It's over with,” he said.
25 Comments

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  • ttc248 Jan 5, 2007

    That mother didn't teach her children to kill and most likley tried to steer them away from being killed. Our children make bad choices. However, when an person like Bynum gets a slap on the wrist for murder, who then, qualifies for the death penalty. Our system is too weighted with $$$, whoever has the money, walks. While his children are deprived of their greatest asset. Instances like this are more of an attraction to crime that anything else, the attitude develops that,so what. I can get away with it. Bad message. And the respect for those within the system diminishes.

  • MzFang Jan 5, 2007

    I hope that the people of Richmond Co wake the hell up before the next election and find someone with a modicum of scruples to run against DA M.Parker. He ran unopposed this past Nov. Doh!
    Here is something very interesting to consider...DA Michael Parker was APPOINTED (not ELECTED)to Union Co DA in 01/2006 by Kenneth Honeycutt who along with Scott Brewer (NOW CURRENTLY A JUDGE IN RICHMOND CO) were charged with lying, cheating and withholding evidence in a 1996 murder trial. Shockingly enough all charges were dropped due to a supposed deadline in FILING PAPERWORK! M. Parker went on to name a room in the new Union County Courthouse after Honeycutt (shortly after getting his new post)How's that for a PRIME example of the "Good Ole Boys Club". It's a shame that DA Parker worked more diligently to protect his corrupt buddies than he did prosecuting Ms Bynum murderer. Maybe Parker will get a church named after him once Bynum gets out of prison.....

  • narck9 Jan 5, 2007

    Can we all stop calling this idiot a "minister".

  • thinktwice Jan 5, 2007

    WOW!!! I WOULDN'T WORRY MUCH, I'M A MOTHER, AND THE WAY I THINK, WE DON'T KNOW HOW LONG SHE HAS TO ENJOY THE REST OF HIS LIFE WHEN HE COMES OUT IN 5 YEARS. WOULDN'T YOU BE WAITING FOR HIM AT THE PRISON GATE IF THAT WAS YOUR CHILD, SISTER, OR FAMILY MEMBER, OF COURSE I'M NOT ENCOURAGING VIOLENCE BUT I WOULD BE THERE WITH A PICKET SIGN THAT SAYS MURDERER.

  • wveagleson Jan 5, 2007

    We really don't have a justice system. Melvin Bynum, who WAS supposedly a man of God" killed his wife in cold blood. He then put her body in the trunk of her car and took her to a remote location and left the car. The plea deal was total BS. He did get away with murder. his fate should have been the same as hers.

  • nursevb8 Jan 5, 2007

    Witnesses don't just refuse to testify! The question is why was he not charged with first degree murder and allowed to plea bargain in the first place. He pleaded guilty to strangling his wife, that to me is not voluntary manslaughter--it's murder. No bargaining should have even been considered. Preacher or not, he should have the same sentencing of anyone killing another.

  • volvoman Jan 5, 2007

    IT'S A COMPLETE JOKE OF OUR SYSTEM IN N.C. THAT YOU GET MORE TIME FOR EMBEZZLING MONEY FROM WAKE CO. SCHOOL SYSTEM THAN FOR BRUTALLY KILLING A PERSON.MAKE YOU WONDER

  • pleszewicz Jan 5, 2007

    "neither the sheriff's office nor the state can manufacture evidence"

  • rukiddingme Jan 5, 2007

    Sharpton is a liar and a cheat

  • luz2playball Jan 5, 2007

    What in the world is going on! We wonder why there is so much crime and cruelty!!Thanks to our justice system, you are invited these unfit people to do harm to the innonce, I hurt for this family- they will never have closure!! We have got to continue to pray for our justice system!!!!!

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