Kokomo — A communication breakdown between prosecutors and the family of Kelly Armstrong led to the withdrawal Tuesday of a proposed plea bargain in the case against the man accused of killing the Kokomo woman.
Howard County Prosecutor Mark McCann filed a motion to withdraw the plea hours before a judge was to decide whether to accept or reject it.
It called for Travis Funke to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter. He would be sentenced to 35 years in prison, with 15 years supervised probation.
“For some reason, the police and prosecutor’s office and the family are unable to communicate,” McCann said. “Because of this, it’s in the best interest of the state to take this to trial.”
Howard Superior Court 2 Judge Brant Parry accepted McCann’s motion and set a jury trial for Aug. 21.
Funke’s attorney, Katherine Noel, told Parry she would need more time to prepare for trial and would likely file a continuance.
Funke admitted to police that he killed Armstrong July 8, 2011, but her body has never been found, according to court documents.
The family reported Armstrong missing Sept. 26, telling police she had not been heard from since the middle of July.
When questioned, Funke denied any involvement. Police say they later arrested him on charges that he violated his in-home detention out of Marshall County. He was incarcerated at the Howard County jail.
Then in October, investigators were contacted by jail staff after an inmate said Funke admitted to killing Armstrong, according to court records. Funke said he believes Armstrong hit him in the head with a hammer and knocked him out after an argument. When he came to, he said he found Armstrong dead on the floor and bleeding from her head. He also told police that he has memories of hitting her in the head, but thought it was a dream, the court documents state.
Funke went on to say he put a plastic bag over Armstrong’s head, wrapped her in a tarp and put her body in a trash tote, according to court documents.
On Jan. 23, officers searched Wabash Valley Landfill in Wabash for the remains. Investigators searched for six days and went through approximately 6,000 tons of trash, but did not find her body, police reported.
McCann said he and police initially met with a family representative, Armstrong’s mother, Teresa Edwards. He said she agreed with the plea.
But then prior to the plea hearing, Edwards publicly expressed her dissatisfaction with a provision calling for prosecutors to recommend that Funke and Armstrong’s 2-year-old son, Dylan, be placed with Funke’s family.
McCann then amended the plea to take out the custody recommendation to appease the family.
Since the filing of the amended plea, family members continued to publicly state their dissatisfaction with the terms of the plea and police and prosecutors’ handling of the case.
That led to McCann withdrawing the plea.
Several of Armstrong’s family attended the hearing. While some seemed confused by the change of course, Kelly’s father said he was pleased.
David Armstrong said he just wants to know what happened to his daughter.
“I didn’t want the plea in the first place,” he said.
“You can have your plea if you give her back to us,” he said of Funke.
• Mike Fletcher, Tribune crime reporter, may be reached at 765-454-8565 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org