by Jason M. Rodriguez
Not only have Teresa Edwards and David Armstrong lost their daughter, Kelly Armstrong, to what Howard County prosecutors believe was a heinous crime, but they’ve also felt they’ve been given the runaround by the accused murderer, Travis Funke, and the prosecutors themselves.
Now, the two say they were blindsided by what they thought was going to be a murder trial, but turned out to be a plea agreement this Tuesday.
They say Funke needs to give truthful testimony about the whereabouts of their daughter’s body before a plea agreement should even be considered.
“The agreement was, in the beginning, Travis had to tell the truth, give us our daughter and that hasn’t happened,” Edwards said last week. “I haven’t seen the plea agreement. They’re not telling me nothing.”
Funke was charged in February 2012 with voluntary manslaughter after Kokomo police said Funke admitted to killing Armstrong, 27, on July 8, 2011. Using information provided by Funke, police searched a landfill in Wabash County but have not found Armstrong’s body.
Armstrong’s family reported her missing Sept. 26, 2011. Funke had been on house arrest out of Marshall County on a conviction for operating a vehicle after a lifetime suspension when he went to Kokomo. Funke was later arrested after he cut off an in-home detention monitoring ankle bracelet, according to police.
In October 2011, investigators were contacted by jail staff who said an inmate had reported hearing Funke admit to killing Armstrong, according to court records.
Under questioning, Funke told investigators he believed Armstrong hit him in the head with a hammer and knocked him out after they argued over drugs. When he came to, he said, he found Armstrong dead on the floor and bleeding from her head.
In return for the plea, prosecutors would also drop two lesser felony charges pending against Funke. He would serve a term of 50 years, with 35 to be spent in prison, to be followed by 15 years on supervised probation, according to the deal.
The initial plea agreement fell through in July when Edwards and Armstrong balked at the part of the agreement when Kelly’s son, Dylan, was to go to the custody of Funke’s family. That part of the agreement, the two understand through published reports, has been struck.
Edwards said she was told she has two months to come up with reasons why Funke’s family should not have custody.
“I was told, ‘When Travis killed Kelly, you lost your rights,’” Edwards said of a conversation with Child Protective Services.
A Special Bond
Edwards has been to visit Funke in the Howard County Jail four times since his incarceration. The most recent visit came Jan. 13 when she said she felt he had something to tell her, but couldn’t.
“I said Travis if you want the plea deal and you don’t want this to go to trial, I’ll leave my number... He led me to believe he was going to give me Kelly. The call never came,” Edwards said. “He said I wasn’t the one who was facing life in prison. It really took me back for a second that he would even say anything. I really just figured I would give it one more try. Especially this last time, it seems like there’s something he’s wanting to say but he can’t say it. It’s like he’s hiding something.”
Funke was going to be Edwards’ son-in-law and the two began bonding even when Kelly Armstrong was alive. She was beginning to learn and understand part of his past and the two began to connect spiritually. But the bond was damaged on the fateful night in July 2011 and it continues to suffer as Edwards feels Funke continues to lie.
“The thing I said is that I trusted you, Travis,” Edwards said. “I looked him right in the eye and said, ‘I trusted you to take care of Kelly and Dillon. To protect them.’ And he just looked at me. Just a blank stare. Nothing. No remorse.
“So I broke down and I started to cry.”
Breakdown in Communication
Edwards was told she would be able to be there when Funke confessed, but she was never invited. She was told by Funke that her daughter was in a Wabash landfill, but she no longer believes that. Prosecutors have not given Funke a polygraph, she said, and then the letter came last week that told the couple that the plea agreement was scheduled and they didn’t even know the terms of it.
Edwards said she feels there’s been a breakdown in communication.
She even took to the social media site Facebook to make her plea for anyone who may know her daughter’s whereabouts.
“I said I’ll drop a map off, you put a big X on it, I’ll call [Kokomo Police Department] and I’ll burn the map,” she said.
David Armstrong shares the same frustration with the plea agreement.
“I’ve not seen it,” he said. “I didn’t even know he filed it. Last I knew, this was set for a murder trial. It’s not set for a plea deal. We’re getting a plea agreement and I still don’t have my daughter.”
Asked whether Edwards was on the prosecution’s side come Tuesday when Funke is slated to strike a plea deal, she quipped, “I want my daughter.”
Asked again, Edwards said she knows the case is far more complicated than what the public and even family members know.
“It’s not that I’m on [Howard County Prosecuting Attorney] Mark’s [McCann] side,” she said. “I know that this case is more complicated than the public even knows or the family even knows because of my own research that I’ve done. But the agreement was with Travis was that he tells the truth and he gives us our daughter. I don’t think he is because there are other people involved.”
David Armstrong agreed.
“He’s not told the truth,” Armstrong said of Funke. “He’s in violation of the plea agreement because he flat-out lied. So he didn’t uphold his end of the plea deal, so why should he even get a deal?”
Their Day in Court
Edwards estimates the majority of her day is spent thinking of her slain daughter.
“I would say 90 percent,” Edwards said. “Especially when I lay down and I start picturing. And I have to pray myself through it. To get the thought out of my mind of what he did to her. I still don’t think he’s being honest. How can you have closure when somebody’s lying all the time? He’s changed his story so many times, I’m not an idiot. This thing consumes me.”
And in just two days, she will face Funke, investigators, the judge, prosecutors and Kelly’s family and friends for a plea deal without knowing exactly where her daughter is.
“I think it’s going to be an emotional roller coaster for me because I’ve already been going through it,” Edwards said. “I cry a lot sometimes when I think about her and what he did. What he said he did doesn’t make sense to what I was told because when I put everything together, my daughter fought for her life.”
Any both agree closure is far from Tuesday’s outcome.
“Not until I get Kelly back,” Edwards said as to when she’ll get closure. “If they want this to go away, I don’t care who it is, they need to give me my daughter. Because this isn’t going to go away.”
“Bring my daughter home, I’ll set a headstone and this will all go away,” David Armstrong said. “This is far, far from over.”
Jason M. Rodriguez is associate editor for the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-732-5117.
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