Saturday, March 3, 2012

Kelly Armstrong Deserves Justice and a Proper Burial


KELLY ARMSTRONG INCLUDED ON LIST OF MISSING MOMS
A 28 year-old mother of four children, Kelly Armstrong from Kokomo, Indiana joined a seemingly ever growing list of missing mothers throughout the United States last September 2011. Though there are no official statistics that reveal the true number of missing young women with dependents, as of January 31, 2012, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Crime Information Center (NCIC) reports there are 3,699 active missing person cases of women between the ages of 22-29.  NCIC reports a total of 83,743 active missing person cases to include men and women of all ages as of January 31, 2012.
Last September, Kelly’s family became concerned for her well-being when they had not heard from her in several weeks. Their concern elevated when they visited her residence and began talking to neighbors who said they had not seen her in weeks. Her family immediately reported her disappearance to Kokomo Police Department. By the time the report was made Kelly’s family knew something was wrong as she would have never left her 18-month old son alone and now in CPS custody.
Following the family’s report, Major Brian Sheldon of the Kokomo Police Department stated, “We are behind the eight ball a little bit, so we are doing a lot of follow up talking to individuals who might have known her or her acquaintances to get some information about where she could possibly be.” Kelly is believed to have vanished in early August so it is estimated they may have been approximately six weeks behind the eight ball.
Kelly Armstrong, photo courtesy of her sister Shelly Rush
LOST IN TIME
Elapsed time between a person’s disappearance and when police are notified is not uncommon when family and friends do not live in close proximity of each other and usually occurs after friends and family become concerned when they have not heard from the individual.  As time passes, the more complex the investigation can be for authorities on the onset.  Unlike a homicide crime scene investigation where there is a definitive starting point for investigators, missing person investigations can be especially challenging because all too often a person vanishes without a trace, no witnesses and no scene of a crime.
When the disappearance of an individual has been determined suspicious or involuntary, statistically if not located within the first 24-48 hours the chances of finding the person safe significantly diminishes with each passing hour. It is always a race against time when searching for a missing person and every piece of information and physical evidence paramount to the outcome of the case. Along with each passing day, traces of evidence at the crime scene lose physical integrity and reliability, deterioration occurs, and contamination.
If foul-play is suspected in the disappearance, securing the crime scene and preservation of physical evidence is vital to potentially locating the victim and building a solid case against the perpetrator of the crime.  Evidence becomes the voice of the victim; the story-teller. Whatever the perpetrator touches, wherever he steps, fibers, blood spatter give investigators the ability to reconstruct the crime scene. When properly collected, physical evidence rarely fails to accurately represent what occurred at a crime scene and human failure to find it.
ADMISSION TO MURDER
On February 21, Kelly’s live-in boyfriend Travis Funke, 34, was charged for her death. The prosecutor confirmed Funke had admitted to beating Kelly to death with a hammer and throwing her body in the trash.
Travis Funke
In an affidavit it states during the initial phase of the investigation in September, Funke cut off his ankle bracelet and apparently tried to commit suicide shortly after being questioned by police. This resulted in a preliminary arrest for charges related to cutting off the ankle monitor and escape.  While incarcerated, a cellmate told police Funke admitted to killing Kelly with a hammer and concerned there may still be evidence remaining at his residence.
It has been confirmed in a probable cause affidavit police did locate several large blood stains on the walls, furniture and carpet along with a hammer covered with blood. A DNA family reference sample was obtained from Kelly’s parents confirming a 99.9 percent match.
While Funke admits to killing Kelly on July 8th and dumping her body, he claims Kelly initiated the attack with the hammer claiming she may have hit him in the head knocking him unconscious and had vague memories hitting her repeatedly with the hammer that he was able to take away from her but claims he thought the entire incident was a dream awaking to find Kelly lying deceased on the floor. According to Funke he placed her body in a trash receptacle and proceeded to try to clean up the blood stains with bleach.
To the dismay of Kelly’s family, Funke has been charged with voluntary manslaughter, which carries a much lighter sentence than a first-degree murder charge. The current voluntary manslaughter charge only carries 45 years, 10 years suspended and the potential Funke could be out within 17 years.  Kelly’s family is outraged. An injustice when one weighs the loss of a young woman’s life and children who now must face life without their mother.
Questions remain as to how the investigation has been handled and if there is a possibility evidence may have been compromised early on. While Funke’s residence should have been sealed off early on with the discovery of blood, information surfaced that a young relative had broken into the house while Funke was incarcerated and proceeded to have a party and help herself to Kelly’s personal belongings. When David Armstrong arrived at the residence to retrieve photographs that his daughter had in her home, he was met by Funke’s mother who had moved into the residence. “I showed up and couldn’t believe Funke’s mother’s suitcases were there and the washer running,” said Armstrong. “I have no confidence in this investigation when my family was told to stay away because police considered it a crime scene, yet Funke’s family had been permitted to come and go as they pleased.”
A FATHER’S PROMISE
The Kokomo Police conducted a six day search of the Wabash Family Landfill but have since discontinued search efforts to retrieve her remains. The family was told police have depleted resources, unable to continue and suspended the search. Since Kelly’s disappearance the family has courageously and tirelessly continued the search for her. The pain of living the nightmare of ambiguity evident in their faces and the anguish in the voices.  All along Kelly’s family remained determined to bring her home and they still are.

Wabash County Landfill 
David Armstrong says he will not accept a landfill as the final resting place for his daughter. No parent should have to live with the thought of their child lay amidst refuse let alone have to personally pay to have their daughter’s body retrieved. Working nearly 20 years in the field of missing persons and homicide cases,  I find this not only a disservice to Kelly Armstrong’s family but a slap in the face to every family in this country who awaits the return of their missing loved one, if even to give them a proper burial. It is heart-wrenching to think that this family does not have the assistance from authorities to search for Kelly but being expected to visit a landfill to pay respects to your murdered child is unthinkable. When a family is told their loved has been murdered yet their remains are not returned the family is sentenced to a tortuous limbo and unable to begin a natural mourning process.  For the family of Kelly Armstrong, their sentence could last well after Funke is released from his voluntary manslaughter sentence.  This is the epitome of injustice.
What if this was your daughter?
Though David has vowed to recruit help from across the country to include search teams to ensure his daughter’s remains and give his daughter a proper burial. It is my hope the Indiana Attorney General and state congressional representatives will closely evaluate what they would do if their child had been murdered and what it would be like to visit their child’s final resting place and lay flowers at a dump. No family deserves to be abandoned and the state should ensure this does not happen. If I were in state leadership in the state of Indiana I would make it my mission to find the resources.
A father’s vow to his child that he will find her, bring her home and give her an honorable burial. Going back to the ancients a proper burial of another human being was seen as a requirement; to think any father would have to do this alone is unimaginable.
David Armstrong is asking anyone who would like to help to visit Operation Find Kelly.
Author – Kym L. Pasqualini
Founder, National Center for Missing Adults
& Social Network Advocate
Missing Persons Advocacy Network
Phone: 800-889-3463 (FIND)