On the 30th of August, 2015, police were alerted to a potential homicide on Pinhoti Trail in Cheaha State Park in Delta, Alabama. They had received a phone call from a man who informed them that he had just murdered his ex-girlfriend.
Police would embark on the scene where they found the body 18-year-old Jolee Callan, a 2015 graduate of Vincent High School. She had been shot dead with a .22-caliber Ruger Bearcat revolver. 20-year-old Loren Daniel Bunner, who lived in Vincent, was arrested, and charged with murder. He was ordered to be held on $150,000 bail. It was Bunner who had called 911 to report that he had murdered Jolee.
Bunner was Jolee’s ex-boyfriend. They had met at Vincent High School and had dated for around ten months. Eventually, however, Jolee broke off the relationship because she wanted to be able to spend time with her friends. As her father, Michael, said: “He just wanted to do things with his friends and wouldn’t let her do things with her friends.”1
Following the break up, Jolee and Bunner had remained in contact. They had gotten a dog together, Kiba, and Bunner kept her at his house but Jolee would often visit. Jolee was a massive animal lover and had a dog, cat, and horse at her family’s home.
Jolee had just recently started dating another man but wanting to remain on good terms with Bunner, she accepted an invitation to go hiking with him on the 30th of August. It was around two months after they had broken up. She had texted her friend that the hiking trip was going to be a “symbolic friendship hike.”
However, it was on this hiking trip that Bunner snapped scenic photographs of Jolee before shooting her twice in the head and then throwing her body off a 50-foot cliff. He uploaded a series of photographs of Jolee in the state park onto his Instagram before killing her. The first photograph showed Jolee in the car with a dog on her lap with the caption: “On our way to go hiking <3” followed by a photograph of Jolee walking the dog.
The final two photographs showed Jolee at the top of the mountain, overlooking the picturesque view. Moments after uploading the final photograph, Bunner killed Jolee. After leaving the state park, he called 911 and was subsequently arrested. He made a full confession but claimed that he had killed Jolee as part of a suicide pact but had backed out after he killed her. Jolee had been shot in the back of the head and between the eyes.2
He pulled over to the side of the road and waited to be arrested.
On the 4th of September, Jolee’s loved ones gathered at Vincent Revival Center for her funeral following which she was interred at Vincent Cemetery. Her obituary read that she was “beloved by may family members and friends.”3
Just a couple of weeks later, Bunner posted that bond and was released from the Clay County Jail.
The following year, Bunner requested youthful offender status. If granted, that meant that he would waive his right to a trial by jury and would instead be tried by the court without a jury. He would also face a less severe sentence if convicted of Jolee’s murder.4
Meanwhile, Jolee’s loved ones gathered for a candlelight vigil at Vincent’s Municipal Park. Around 100 people showed up for the vigil. They wore purple shirts, carried candles and reminisced about Jolee. Her father, Michael, had posted on Facebook: “Let us come together to support each other, pray for justice for Jolee and ask for peace through this difficult time. Jolee’s warm presence, kindness and love throughout our lives is greatly missed.”5
The hearing to determine whether Bunner would be granted youthful offender status was postponed after his defence attorney requested more time for a psychiatric evaluation. Accord to defence attorney, Gregory Varner, Bunner may have Asperger’s syndrome.
His request read: “The existence of a mental disorder is certainly relevant to the defendant’s eligibility for youthful offender status. A medical determination of disorder is specifically relevant for a youthful hearing adjudication. If Asperger’s syndrome is present, there is a greater possibility of misinterpretation of behaviors and characteristics typical of those with Asperger’s syndrome since these behaviors and characteristics could be misinterpreted as evidence of guilt, indifference or lack of remorse.”6
Ultimately, Bunner would be granted youthful offender status. The decision deeply upset Jolee’s family and prosecutors would ask the judge to reconsider the decision and in December, the youthful status was overturned. Circuit Court Judge George Simpson said that Bunner would instead be tried as an adult and would be facing felony murder charges, which could come with a sentence of life in prison.7
In January of 2017, Bunner appeared in court where he pleaded not guilty to the murder of Jolee.8 He was ordered to stand trial in mid-July. However, just days before the trial was scheduled to begin, Bunner appeared in court and pleaded guilty to Jolee’s murder, claiming that it was a suicide pact.9
According to Bunner, he and Jolee had planned on jumping together from the cliff but when they got there, they were too afraid to jump. He said that Jolee asked him to shoot her when she wasn’t looking and that after he killed her he couldn’t go through with taking his own life so got back into his car and called 911. He had also confessed to two inmates as well as multiple law enforcement agencies.
Clay County District Attorney Jeffrey Willis said: “This senseless and selfish crime has been a terrible loss to the family and friends of Jolee, and a loss to the community as a whole. Nothing that was done here can correct that. I am, however, grateful that we were able to conclude the case without the necessity of putting the Callan family through a lengthy trial.”10
Loren Bunner was sentenced to 52 years in prison and was ordered to pay $9,255.92 in restitution to the Alabama Crime Victims Commission.11
- The Anniston Star, 14 June, 2016 – “Family of Slain Shelby County Teenager Questions Suspect’s Youthful Offender Status”
- The Independent, 21 August, 2017 – “Teenager’s Final Hours Captured in Photos Taken by Ex-Boyfriend”
- Shelby County Reporter, 4 September, 2015 – “Vincent Man Charged with Killing 18-Year-Old Girl”
- Shelby County Reporter, 11 March, 2016 – “Suspect in Murder of Vincent Teen Asks for Youthful Status”
- Shelby County Reporter, 14 March, 2016 – “Family Remembers Victim as Suspect Requests Youthful Status”
- Shelby County Reporter, 5 April, 2016 – “Youthful Offender Hearing Delayed for Vincent Murder Suspect”
- Shelby County Reporter, 22 December, 2016 – “Vincent Murder Suspect’s Youthful Status Overturned”
- The Anniston Star, 4 January, 2017 – “Shelby County Man is Headed to Court on Murder Charge”
- Associated Press, 13 July, 2017 – “Man Sentenced in Girlfriend’s Death”
- The Daily Home, 13 Julym 2017 – “Shelby County Man Pleads Guilty to Murdering Ex-Girlfriend in Clay County”
- Shelby County Reporter, 13 July, 2017 – “Bunner Gets 52 Years in Prison for Killing Ex-Girlfriend”