The Denver District Attorney's Office recently announced that it would try Kevin Bui and Gavin Seymour, both sixteen, as adults for a case of arson that killed five people in August 2020. But that doesn't mean that they'll actually be prosecuted as adults — or even if they are, that the process moves forward in a timely manner.
Take the case of Montbello resident Jennie Bunsom, who had just marked her sixteenth birthday in August 2018 when the Denver DA's office announced that she would be prosecuted as an adult in the death of Jordan Vong, her seven-year-old nephew. More than two years later, Bunsom's anticipated move out of the juvenile system still hasn't happened; a hearing on the matter that was originally expected to take place in mid-2019 is now scheduled for next month.
The delay has gone on for so long that Bunsom actually is an adult now; she turned eighteen last August 5 in custody, where she remains.
The probable-cause statement in Bunsom's name begins at 4:23 p.m. on August 6, 2018, when Vong's mother dialed 911 and reported her son missing. She said he'd last been seen in the living room of their residence, on the 4900 block of Fairplay Street, about 45 minutes earlier. At the time, he'd been using his tablet computer and wearing a pair of gray sweatpants.
Denver police officers responded to the call quickly, and they were followed by members of the department's major crimes missing and exploited persons (MEP) unit, who determined that the "Vong family's statements to detectives were inconsistent."
The PC statement notes that because the crawl space in the residence was cluttered, law enforcement officials requested a search warrant in order to be able to conduct a more thorough search. The warrant was drafted at approximately 7:15 p.m. on August 7 and was subsequently granted by a Denver County Court judge.
The MEP investigators began their search of the residence at 8:11 p.m., and 35 minutes later, at 8:46 p.m., a detective located Vong's body in the basement closet of the bedroom belonging to Bunsom.
According to the statement, the child had "a towel and comforter wrapped around his head, biological matter and blood about his nose, and an unknown imprint on Vong's chest."
Early the next morning, Bunsom was interviewed in the presence of her mother, and she was said to have voluntarily agreed to speak to an MEP detective. The story she told, as recounted in the police report, includes a time discrepancy related to the last time Vong's mother saw him — but it reveals the alleged specifics of the crime.
At about 12:43 p.m. on August 6, Bunsom was in her bedroom, fuming about an argument with her girlfriend, when Vong appeared and asked her to play video games with him. According to the detective's account, Bunsom told him "No" and said he should go back upstairs, but he refused and laid down on her bed.
The teen said she was "upset" by Vong's actions, the statement continues, and when he again rejected her order to get off the bed, she pushed him to the floor, causing him to strike his face and start to cry. "She placed her hand over Jordan's mouth and plugged his nose as Jordan began to struggle for a few minutes," it reads. "Jordan stopped moving. She put him under the bed."
What happened next is blotted out in the report. But after an unspecified length of time, Bunsom is said to have removed Jordan from the spot beneath the bed, wrapped him in a blanket and placed his body in one of two portable closets in her room, where it stayed for more than a day before being discovered.
According to the statement, she informed no one in her family about what she'd done "because she was afraid."
Bunsom's family was officially advised of the decision to try her as an adult on August 14, 2018. The public defenders assigned to her case objected to this designation, and at a court appearance that December, a Denver District Court judge reportedly agreed to push a hearing on the subject back until May 2019 because the attorneys hadn't received her mental health records.
No such hearing has happened...yet. According to Carolyn Tyler, spokesperson for the Denver DA, Bunsom now has "a Preliminary Hearing/Reverse Transfer Hearing scheduled to go for four days starting on 3/22/21-3/26/21" — almost two years after it was initially scheduled.
While Tyler wouldn't expand on the reasons for the long delay, she did offer a description of the procedure, from the "How Criminal Cases Work" section of the DA office's website. Under the heading "Juveniles Tried as Adults," it reads: "In rare felony criminal cases, a juvenile is charged as an adult, and faces adult criminal penalties, through one of two processes: 'Direct file,' in which adult charges are filed directly in District Court, or 'transfer,' in which charges are filed in Juvenile Court but a motion is filed by the District Attorney to request a transfer of the case to District Court."
If the hearing does take place next month, details will only be made public if a judge allows the DA's office to try Bunsom as an adult. If not, records will be sealed owing to her juvenile status at the time of the crime — even though she's not a juvenile anymore.
Click to read the Jennie Bunsom probable-cause statement.
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