By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
A young woman takes her life, a family suffers an unthinkable loss, and the media tells a story both sad and horrifyingly villainous.
But what are the facts?
Local, national and international reports of University of Alabama co-ed Megan Rondini’s alleged rape and suicide by hanging seven months after the events of July 2015 has cast a long shadow over the City of Tuscaloosa, law-enforcement, the University, local medical practitioners and the alleged rapist, 34-year-old Tuscaloosa-native T.J. Bunn.
Recently, the Alabama Political Reporter obtained a large volume of previously undisclosed public records that fill in many of the details surrounding the alleged rape, actions taken by the Tuscaloosa Sheriff’s Office and others.
Megan’s text messages, video diary, police interview recordings, CCTV footage and Snapchat videos, as well as medical examination, show a much broader picture of the events than previously reported in the media and sensationalized by internet bloggers and websites.
APR has filed an open-records request with the Tuscaloosa Sheriff’s Office to ensure all material related to Megan’s case are released and nothing excluded from direct examination.
Rape is an act of violence, and an allegation of rape is a serious matter. Therefore, all the facts and not just a handful selectively doled out evidence should be scrutinized under the harsh light of justice.
Rape according to the law
According to 2006 Alabama Code – Section 13A-6-61 — Rape in the first degree.
(a) A person commits the crime of rape in the first-degree if:
(1) He or she engages in sexual intercourse with a member of the opposite sex by forcible compulsion; or
(2) He or she engages in sexual intercourse with a member of the opposite sex who is incapable of consent by reason of being physically helpless or mentally incapacitated; or
(3) He or she, being 16 years or older, engages in sexual intercourse with a member of the opposite sex who is less than 12 years old.
(b) Rape in the first degree is a Class A felony.
After Megan’s suicide the Rondini family filed a Federal wrongful death lawsuit against the University, the Tuscaloosa Sheriff’s Office, and Bunn, alleging her rape allegations were mishandled and ultimately led to her depression and suicide.
On July 2, 2016, Megan accused T.J. Bunn Jr., whom she called by his nickname Sweet Tea, of rape.
A Buzzfeed report which fueled outrage around Megan’s death said, “Megan Rondini’s friends and family remember her as having an ironclad sense of right and wrong. Her childhood nickname was ‘Rules Rondini’ because she was such a principled board game player.” Buzzfeed’s story shows a straight-laced honor’s student who was molested by the son of a well to do Tuscaloosa family. The report further states, “Megan couldn’t remember how she ended up in Sweet T’s white Mercedes on the way to his ornate mansion, decorated with his choicest hunting conquests, from massive-tusked elephant and wide-mouthed hippo heads to taxidermied lions and leopards. But, Megan later told police, she was sober enough by the time he pointed her toward his bedroom to know she didn’t want to have sex with him — and, she said, Sweet T should’ve known it, too.”
Text, emoji’s and Snapchat before sex
During her time at Bunn’s home, she sent Snapchat videos to friends showing Bunn’s hunting conquest giggling while naming the animals one by one. She also sends other text messages and videos.
According to text messages from Megan’s cell phone the sexual encounter with Bunn took place between 12:23 a.m. and 1:04 a.m. on the morning of July 2. At about 12:14 Megan made videos of the interior of Bunn’s house and sent them to friends via text messages and Snapchat. During this period the following text correspondence took place:
Megan: Pick me up in morning
Friend: Kk I have class at 10 so early ish
Megan: We are going to guck
Friend: Do it?
Friend: Wear a condom
Friend: Good luck
Megan: Eww but I’ll make it real good
Friend: Hahah like a tru horseback rider
On the timeline established by Megan’s text messages, the above conversation took place just before her sexual encounter with Bunn in his bedroom at his Cottondale home.
In her handwritten statement to the Tuscaloosa Sheriff’s Department Megan wrote, “I waited for him in his room on a chair near the door and a bathroom. When he came to his room, he insisted we have sex and I let him have sex with me after much insisting that I needed to leave.”
Megan confirmed in her interviews with Sheriff’s investigators that she had oral sex (fellatio) and vaginal sex with Bunn. She also said in another interview that Bunn performed cunnilingus on her. Megan told officers that she was “not responsive” during the sex acts. On three occasions Megan said to law-enforcement officers that she never told Bunn no, only that she wanted to leave.
At 1:04 Megan text another friend: Cb come get me.
Megan and friends text about Sweet Tea and his money
But July 2015 was not when Megan first chanced upon Bunn or discussed her friend’s interest in his money.
Megan told Tuscaloosa Sheriff’s investors she didn’t know Bunn but had seen him in the campus bar scene and met him sometime before Thanksgiving 2014.
In a November 28, 2014, text message exchange she and a friend discuss Bunn:
Megan: 8:52 a.m. Met the guy that owns wood and water last night.
Friend: 8:52 a.m. Bro hook me up with a discount
Megan: 8:53 Haha I’ll work on it.
[Bunn is not affiliated with Wood and Water, but his family does own a mega constitution interest S T Bunn Construction Company.]
In a group text on December 13, 2014, Megan and her friends discuss Bunn again:
Megan: 3:08:13 p.m. Mich can just smoke weed and marry someone rich to finance it
Friend: 3:08:34 p.m. Trueee
Friend: 3:08:42 p.m. Yes
Megan: 3:08:56 p.m. Cough Sweet Tea cough
Friend: 3:13:27 p.m. OMG YES
Friend: 3:15:29 p.m. I NEED TO marry him
Friend: 3:15:44 p.m. Who is sweet tea
Friend: 3:17:52 p.m. Hahahahaha
Megan: 3:19:04 p.m. Megan sends a picture of Bunn and one of his friends in conversation.
Friend: 3:20:00 p.m. Oh shit he’s so not as old as yall made him out to be
Friend: 3:22:08p.m. Old enough to be my dad
Friend: 3:22:08 p.m. How old is he
Friend: 3:22:08 p.m. I mean id def go for him if I were just a lil older ya know $$$$
Bunn, nearly 15 years Megan’s senior at the time, is from a wealthy and influential Tuscaloosa family. His habit of haunting taverns frequented by young college co-eds has given him a roguish reputation according to locals. “His a 30 something frat guy still trolling for college girls,” said a law-enforcement officer. “With that silly nickname and airs of privilege. He’s a dirt bag,” said the officer who is not authorized to speak on the record. Megan and her friends were aware of Bunn’s habit of hanging out at bars and his family money, as shown from texts in November and December of 2014.
In her original statement at DCH Regional Medical Center and subsequent interviews, Megan left out details of the night and early morning July 1-2 saying she couldn’t remember.
Megan said she didn’t recall taking Bunn and his friend known as Jason to her apartment before going to Bunn’s home. CCTV from the hallway at Megan apartment at Houndstooth Apartments show, Megan, Bunn and “Jason” enter her apartment and captures the trio leaving. The videos show Megan and the two men walking without staggered steps or unusual behavior. Bunn is seen clapping his hands together as they entered the apartment.
Urgent calls for a ride
According to Megan’s statement to law-enforcement, Bunn fell asleep after sex, and she took the opportunity to leave. “When he finished he rolled over and fell asleep, and I quickly got up to gather my clothes,” she wrote.
Over approximately an hour Megan sent a series of text messages looking for someone to pick her up from Bunn’s home and saying she couldn’t leave Bunn’s bedroom because the door was locked.
At 1:08, according to Megan’s phone records a friend text, “Currently trying to figure out sober people to help.”
In the next text, the friend asks, “Who are you with” Seconds late Megan reply, “Some rich rude help.”
In her handwritten statement to investigators, Megan wrote: “When I tried to open any of the doors they were either locked or a closet.” She says she found a ring of keys but was still unable to open the doors. “I tried to wake up Sweet Tea, but he would not help me.” She then decided to climb out an open window on the second floor of Bunn’s home.
At 1:19:07 a.m. Megan text: I’m climbing out the window.
The following text messages were sent to friends over the next hour:
Megan: 1:52:48 a.m. Why will no one help me
Friend: 1:53:12 a.m. Cuz we’re all fucked up
Megan: 1:55:56 a.m. I’m literally stuck in someone ducking red room thirty minutes off campus I fucking die this is why
Friend: 1:58:03 a.m. coming
Megan: 2:03:59 a.m. I cannot find my keys I looked for the li
Megan: 2:08:38 If this was a time to get someone it would be ducking now
Megan not only climbed down from the second story window she climbed back up to look for her keys according to her statements to investigators.
During the period Megan also went through Bunn’s car finding a hand gun which she says unintentional discharged. She also said she took Bunn’s keys, some cash, and football tickets as well as the handgun.
Along with texting friends and giving then Bunn’s address, she called a taxi which arrives just before her friends. Megan told officers who interviewed her at DCH Medical Center ER that her friend said she needed to come to the hospital to be checked out. Megan’s test results showed she had vaginal intercourse as well as another yet undisclosed problem.
Megan told officers she didn’t want to make a “big deal” out of the situation and later said she was considering not filing charges against Bunn.
Grand Jury returns no bill
Tuscaloosa County District Attorney’s Office did finally take Megan’s case to a grand jury, which returned a no bill that meant Bunn was never charged with rape.
The Rondini family contend in their lawsuit that defendants involved in Megan’s case “negligently, recklessly, wantonly, and/or wrongfully acted or failed to act in response to Megan’s reported sexual assault.”
The files reviewed by APR are filled with graphic details of Megan’s life, some too shocking for print but surely will be exposed during a trial. They also show Bunn was no angel and misrepresented facts to investigators.
“Sexual assault and rape are violent crimes of power and control that are acted through sexual means,” according to Peace Over Violence. “It is not just the act of sex.”
The events of July 1-2, 2015, have damaged two families, cast doubt on the reputation of the University of Alabama, The City of Tuscaloosa, the Tuscaloosa Sheriff’s Office and DCH Medical Center. The facts of what happen matter. But most sadly no fact or act will ever bring back the life of Megan Rondini. Lost forever is the promise of her youth and hopes of tomorrow.