Local News

Plea Deal Rejected in Slaying of Pastor's Wife

Posted January 2, 2007 12:53 p.m. EST
Updated January 2, 2007 9:26 p.m. EST

— A judge on Tuesday rejected a plea agreement that would have allowed a Sanford minister charged with killing his wife to serve five years in prison.

Melvin Bynum, 45, pleaded guilty Tuesday afternoon to voluntary manslaughter in connection with 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.

As part of a plea deal reached with prosecutors, Melvin Bynum was to receive a sentence of five years in prison. But after hearing statements from Marnita Bynam's family about how her death had affected them, District Judge David Lee said he couldn't accept the plea deal.

"Words cannot say what was done to me. I no longer have a child," a sobbing Jacquelyn Carter said. She is Marnita Bynum's mother and wore a shirt with her daughter's picture on it.

"I just want justice for this. He should be punished to the fullest (extent) because this should have never happened," said Jennifer Shannon, Marnita Bynum's cousin.

Melvin Bynum showed no emotion as his in-laws spoke in court. The judge said, however, that it was clear that the plea agreement wasn't appropriate for the crime, a ruling that brought smiles to Marnita Bynum's relatives.

Lee met briefly late Tuesday afternoon with prosecutors and defense attorneys to discuss how to proceed with the case, but no decisions were announced.

No further hearings are scheduled in the case, so it's unclear whether Melvin Bynum would enter another plea or whether the case will go to trial.

Melvin Bynum, the pastor of Cry Out Loud Ministries in Sanford, has been in jail in Richmond County since his arrest in September 2004. He was originally charged with first-degree murder in the case and could have faced the death penalty if convicted on that charge.

Investigators said marital difficulties were the likely motive in the slaying.

Melvin Bynum filed for divorce in June 2004. The couple had been legally separated since late 2001, but investigators said they continued to live together in Aberdeen.