The family of homicide victim Kelly Armstrong said media attention prompted Indiana prosecutors to upgrade charges against boyfriend Travis Funke from manslaughter to murder.
"We honestly think that the DA would not have done this if it was not for the national attention brought by The Huffington Post and local efforts by FOX59. We just don't think he would have done it," said Armstrong's cousin, Charity Grable.
Prosecutor Mark McCann filed the murder charge against 34-year-old Funke on Friday afternoon, according to Howard Superior Court Judge Brant Howard. A hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday.
Armstrong's family members, saying the plea deal wasn't discussed with them, had expressed anger and filed a formal
complaint against McCann.
Armstrong's father said the plea deal fell apart amid media reports. He singled out the Huffington Post for being the first national news organization to report on the issue.
"I think it was a combination of those things," Armstrong said Thursday, referring to the media attention and the family's protests.
Armstrong told HuffPost Friday he is pleased that prosecutors upgraded the charge to murder, but upset it took so long. "It should have been done a long time ago," he said.
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Kelly Armstrong, 28, disappeared in August 2011. She and Funke lived together with their baby in Kokomo, about 50 miles north of Indianapolis. Funke was arrested on Sept. 28, 2011, on an unrelated warrant. When authorities interviewed Funke on Jan. 6, Funke told investigators he killed Armstrong around July 1, 2011, police said. He said he placed her body in a garbage bin. Multiple searches have failed to locate Armstrong's body.
The district attorney's office and Kokomo police have repeatedly declined to discuss the investigation with The Huffington Post.
While law enforcement has stopped actively searching for Kelly Armstrong, her family continues to lead community searches. Grable said those efforts are suffering. "We have no idea where to go -- where to look for her and we can't get a professional search group to come help us," she said.
Grable said the family had pinned hopes on additional media coverage.
"We have reached out to CNN and Fox News to help us get more national coverage, but they won't even bother to return our messages," Grable said.
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