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After Deal Rejected, Minister Pleads Guilty To Killing Wife

A Sanford minister pleaded guilty Wednesday to killing his wife and stuffing her body in the trunk of her car more than two years ago.

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ROCKINGHAM, N.C. — A Sanford minister pleaded guilty Wednesday to killing his wife and stuffing her body in the trunk of her car more than two years ago.

For the second day in a row, Melvin Bynum, 45, pleaded guilty 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.

Judge David Lee rejected the plea Tuesday because it was part of a deal with prosecutors that would have sentenced Lee to five years in prison. After hearing comments from Marnita Bynum's relatives about the impact of her slaying, Lee said the sentence wasn't appropriate for the crime.

Lee said he wanted some discretion in imposing a sentence. After Wednesday's plea, he sentenced Bynum to serve between 64 and 86 months in prison.

"(Tuesday's) plea would not have allowed him discretion in sentencing. He would have been locked into a sentence," defense attorney Robert Reives said.

Bynum has already spent more than two years behind bars, having been held in the Richmond County Jail since his arrest in September 2004.

Marnita Bynum's mother was upset with both plea deals, saying she spent as much time in prison for a forged check that her son-in-law will serve for killing her daughter.

"Seven years. That's what (the maximum sentence) is. That's a slap in the face, and my baby is worth more than that," Jacquelyn Carter said, adding that she plans to lobby for stiffer sentencing laws in North Carolina.

"I'm going to work on a law for my baby," she said.

Melvin Bynum, the pastor of Cry Out Loud Ministries in Sanford, was originally charged with first-degree murder in the case and could have faced the death penalty if he had been 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.

Assistant Richmond County District Attorney Jonathan Hipps declined to comment after the court hearing. But defense attorneys said they had grounds for a deal based on the evidence in the case.

"The state's case had a lot of weaknesses," defense attorney Eddie Meachum said. "If you did a very logical evaluation of the state's evidence, there were a lot of outcomes other than guilty to first-degree murder."


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