Uncooperative witness leads to murder charge being dropped against Indy man following deadly argument

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INDIANAPOLIS– Murder charges have been dropped against an Indianapolis man accused of killing another man during an argument on the northeast side. The dismissal dates back to a homicide in February 2020.

Court records show that a key eyewitness repeatedly refused to show up to depositions and told prosecutors she had no intention of testifying at trial. Without her assistance prosecutors were forced to dismiss the murder case last week.

Police say an argument over a missing gun led to a deadly shooting in a neighborhood near 52nd and Shadeland on the last day of February 2020. The victim, Justin Bonds, died an hour later at the hospital.

An affidavit filed in March of last year detailed how the victim’s girlfriend witnessed the shooting and initially helped identify Theo Sanford as the killer. Yet after agreeing to a bench trial in the courtroom of judge Mark Stoner, prosecutors dismissed the murder case on Friday because that witness failed to appear.

Prosecutors had previously charged the witness with contempt of court and had her arrested earlier this year for failing to honor a subpoena. “It’s one of those multi-layer issues where there is no easy fix,” said attorney Ralph Staples.

Attorney Staples isn’t connected to the case, but as a former deputy prosecutor, he knows witness cooperation is a common problem in criminal cases because many witnesses are afraid of retaliation.

“It’s one of those problems that doesn’t really have a solution.  The general public thinks you can put people in witness protection, but the city and county don’t have the resources to provide that type of assistance,” said Staples.

“Ultimately eyewitness accounts are what’s best,” said IMPD chief Randal Taylor.

During a sit down interview last week, IMPD chief Randal Taylor spoke in general about how witnesses remain critical to homicide victims getting justice.

“If you honestly care about this community and what’s going on, then you have to step up and let us know what happened,” said Taylor.

Aside from noting that the criminal case could be refiled in the future if the witness changes her mind, prosecutor Ryan Mears was not made available for comment on the dismissal.

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