Sealed records indicate possible youthful offender status in Cheaha murder case

Published: May. 26, 2016 at 7:27 PM CDT|Updated: May. 26, 2016 at 9:40 PM CDT
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Jolee Callan. (Source: Facebook)
Jolee Callan. (Source: Facebook)

CLAY COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - State court records have apparently been sealed in the case of a man accused of killing his girlfriend in the Cheaha Wilderness last year.

That could mean the defendant was gr anted youthful offender status.

Loren Daniel Bunner, 21, of Shelby County was charged with the August 30 death of his girlfriend, Jolee Callan. Both were from Shelby County.

However, an Alacourt check reveals Bunner's records in that case -- his initial charge in Clay County District Court, and his indictment in Clay County Circuit Court -- have vanished from that system, as they would have if the case had been completely sealed.

Under Alabama law, an offender under the age of 21 can apply for youthful offender status. If gr anted, records would be sealed and a defendant in a felony case like this one would face little to possibly even no jail time. And if there is jail time, it would not extend past the defendant's 21st birthday. It means the defendant would likely have a clean criminal record.

Bunner turned 21 shortly after his arrest.

A news release from the Clay County Sheriff's Office back in 2015 indicated Jolee Callan's body was found on the Pinhoti Trial, and she was shot in the head. The park manager at Cheaha State Park told WBRC at the time the killing apparently happened in the federal Cheaha Wilderness section of the Talladega National Forest, but outside Cheaha State Park itself.

It happened on a day when, according to Callan's Instagram account, the two were hiking. They were traveling with a dog, and the very last picture of Callan shows her taking a smart phone picture of the view from the mountain.

Before the records were sealed, WBRC reporters and producers saw them and they showed Bunner being indicted in Clay County Circuit Court, with an arraignment and youthful offender hearing delayed at one point from March to April 20. The records also showed defense attorneys were investigating whether Bunner had Asperger's Syndrome.

Because the case records are gone from Alacourt, we will likely never know how Bunner was sentenced, whether he served any further jail time--other than that at the time of his arrest before he made bond--and what exactly led to the killing of Jolee Callan in the first place, on a public trail where thousands of tourists visit from around the world every year.

We have reached out to Clay County District Attorney Fred Thompson about the case. Chief Assistant District Attorney Jeff Willis says the office has no comment.

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