We can live forever even with an impactful shorter-life.”
― Aniekee Tochukwu Ezekiel
So few words, yet such a bold statement. How does one begin to measure the weight of an impact a person can make on their life? The honest truth…you don’t really know until they are gone…That’s the way it is when God puts a shining star in our lives, it burns so bright that it burns itself out quickly, yet its beauty is never forgotten. Jolee Callan left the imprint of her footprints in every heart of those around her.
Jolee Callan was a magical little slip of a girl, yet her presence was larger than life. At 4’10 and all of 90 lbs, her waif-like aura was powerful, as people were drawn to her quiet, yet infectious zest for life. Those who knew her best said she was one of a kind, and there would never be another like her anywhere. To say that she was immensely loved by all who knew her would be an understatement. Yet, her time on Earth was to be short-lived. Her life would be snuffed out at the tender age of 18 in such a shocking, brutal manner at the hands of someone who claimed to truly love her. And with that, Jolee would become a statistic of domestic violence. Yet the lives she touched in her brief time on Earth would live forever.
Although there were many things reported on during the time of Jolee’s murder, no one talked about HER. She simply became a statistic on paper to those who never knew her. No one reported that Jolee Callan , born December 29, 1996, had this massive heart for people and animals. That she was very sensitive, empathetic and kind to everyone she knew. Her love for the theatre was also close to her heart, as she participated in several plays. In her Junior year, she played a part in Grease and then Wizard of Oz in senior year. She played the part of the china doll to perfection. Jolee made good grades in school and never got a spanking in her life, nor did she get in any trouble. Her favorite couple was purple.
Jolee was 17 when she began dating Loren Bunner. Father, Michael described him as a quiet person, who kept to himself, but seemed like a decent guy. They dated about a year, with frequent breakups throughout the span of the relationship. They did stuff with his friends, but not her friends. He was described by many as manipulating and controlling.
Every time Jolee would try to break free of him, he would prey upon her sympathy by threatening to kill himself if she didnt come back to him. Afer some time, she grew tired of this threat, and ended their relationship for good around the time she graduated from Vincent High School.
Jolee was described as a much happier person free from Loren, as she started seeing someone else. But Loren continued to call her, wanting her back. Jolee still wanted to be his friend, so she tolerated these calls, which continued throughout the course of the summer. But her father had no idea she had agreed to go on what was referred to as a “symbolic hike” to Cheaha Mountain with Loren on August 30, or he said he would not have let her go. The hike was labeled as symbolic because Jolee thought this was going to be a transistion to a platonic friendship, or that was what Loren had led her to believe. The last time Michael saw his daughter was Friday night, when she told him she loved him right before she left and he told her that he loved her too.
Jolee’s best friend texted her the night before ( Saturday night, telling her she was staying at Loren’s house that night, sleeping on the couch and they were going on their symbolic hike the next day to Cheaha. She jokingly told Callan not to let him take her off in the woods and kill her, to which she replied ” LOL, well if something happens to me, you’ll know who I was with”. This was the last time she would ever speak to her dear friend.
What events played out on that fateful Sunday will remain a mystery, and all police had to go one was Bunner’s account, which seemed to change several times. Bunner called the Oxford Police Department around 6pm that night, stating that he had “murdered his girlfriend on the trail”. Bunner then led the lawmen through the densely wooded area to the edge of the cliff just off the Pinhoti Trail. There, they discovered Jolee’s body about 40 feet down off the rock cliff with her backpack still on. No remorse could be seen on Bunner’s face at the scene.
Bunner’s story was that they had a murder/suicide pact, but he was unable to go through with his suicide after shooting her. He had told law enforcement that he had only shot her once in the back of the head, because he said “she didn’t want to see it coming”. However, an autopsy would later reveal that she had also been shot point blank between the eyes as well. He said he then threw her body off the cliff, House said. An autopsy revealed Callan had been shot twice – once from behind and once between the eyes. Police recovered a Bear Claw .22 from Bunner, and observed “a large amount of blood” at the area where the shooting apparently took place. There was also blood on Bunner’s steering wheel.
Another chilling note, was that shortly after Bunner had committed this murder, he had posted pictures of their hike that day on Instagram, and had also posted this on Twitter.
Bunner was taken into custody at the Clay County jail, where he remained for the next nine months, as his court dates kept getting continued. His original court date was set for October, but a verdict was not reached until late May 2016.
Before the records were sealed, they did show the defense attorneys were investigating whether Bunner had Asperger’s Syndrome. Because of this investigation, it was believed that a youthful offender status was granted to Bunner, which only holds a three-year sentence maximum, a suspended sentence, or simply probation. Under the youthful offender status, this would not go on his record after his sentence was served. However, the youthful offender status was revoked in December 2016. Bunner spent only 15 days in jail and has been out on a 150,000 bond since January 2017.
It’s been a long, hard road for the Callan family and those who knew Jolee so well, but they remain hopeful that some sort of justice will be served in the her death. On Thursday, July 13, 2017 @ 10:00 am, at the Clay County Courthouse, Bunner will go before Judge Simpson for a change of plea and there is a good possibility Bunner will receive his sentence at this time.
This horrific crime has touched my heart since day one. My heart breaks for this family, for Jolee, who did nothing to deserve the unspeakable act of violence that ended her short life. I am asking that this county support this family during this sentencing tomorrow. In honor of Jolee and in support for the family, I ask that you wear purple tomorrow, maybe place a purple bow, lay a flower or sign on the courthouse lawn. Perhaps you could even be there, outside standing on the lawn just to show your support. Folks, its the least we can do for this family for everything they have lost and everything they have had to go through just to get some justice for Jolee. This county has always had the best people and have always been there for others in times of need. Well, this family needs you tomorrow. Let’s show them that we care….