A voluntary manslaughter charge against the former boyfriend of a missing woman has been upgraded to murder, Howard County Prosecutor Mark McCann said Friday.
Pressure from the family of Kelly Armstrong, a Kokomo woman who was reported missing in September, prompted McCann to additionally charge Travis Funke with murder, the prosecutor said.
Howard Superior Court 2 Judge Brant Parry confirmed the murder charge was filed Friday and set an initial hearing for Tuesday.
Without a body, McCann originally charged Funke with voluntary manslaughter. Funke confessed to killing Armstrong and putting her body in a curb-side trash tote, according to court records.
Police searched Wabash landfill in January but her body was never found.
As the case neared a trial, McCann elected to file a plea bargain, which would have resulted in Funke receiving 35 years in prison and then 15 years of probation.
That plea was withdrawn after the family publicly expressed its disapproval.
With the plea revoked, a jury trial was set for Aug. 21.
In another twist to the case, David Armstrong, Kelly’s father, filed a motion to expel McCann as prosecutor in the case.
Armstrong said in an interview Friday that McCann violated the portion of Indiana code that deals with plea agreements for defendants.
“He did not inform the family of the contents of the plea filed Sept. 23 and we were not advised of [Funke’s] confession until Jan. 9,” Armstrong said.
“This case is so screwed up,” he said. “Something needs to be done.”
McCann acknowledged the motion, but would not comment.
During the plea hearing Wednesday, McCann advised the court he notified the victim’s mother of the plea prior to it being filed. According to state law, if a victim is deceased, a prosecutor is required to notify at least one family member.
Court records show that Funke didn’t admit to police that he killed Armstrong until a Jan. 6 interview. The initial plea was filed June 27, according to court records.
When first questioned in September, Funke denied any involvement. Police 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.
Investigators corroborate the inmate’s statements in November when a friend of Funke’s told police Funke had told them he killed Armstrong.
Police then obtained a search warrant for Armstrong’s trailer, where they found blood stains on the carpet in the bedroom and living room. DNA tests showed the blood belonged to Kelly Armstrong, court records showed.
On Jan. 6, investigators interviewed Funke with his attorney present. That’s when Funke told police he killed Kelly.
According to his statement to police, 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.
Investigators then contacted the Kokomo Street Department and learned that trash from the residence was picked up July 8, 2011 and taken to Wabash Valley Landfill.
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.
• Mike Fletcher, Tribune crime reporter, may be reached at 765-454-8565 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.