Herbert Williams Mullin
(1947 - ) was a serial killer who operated in California in the early
Born on April 18, 1947, and raised in
Santa Cruz, California, Mullin had a relatively normal childhood. His
father, a World War II veteran, was stern but not overtly abusive. He
frequently discussed his heroic war activities and showed his son how to
use a gun at an early age. Mullin had numerous friends at school and was
voted "most likely to succeed" by his classmates. However, shortly after
graduating from high school, one of Mullin's best friends was killed in
a car accident, and Mullin was devastated. He built a shrine to his
deceased friend in his bedroom and later expressed fears that he was
gay, even though he had a long-term girlfriend at the time.
As he entered adulthood, Mullin's
behaviour became increasingly unstable. He broke off his relationship
with his girlfriend for no apparent reason, started obsessing over
impending earthquakes and began asking his sister to have sex with him.
He claimed a desire to go to India to study religion, although he never
In 1969, at the age of 21, Mullin
allowed his family to commit him to a mental hospital. Over the next few
years, he would enter various institutions, but would discharge himself
after only a short stay. He burned cigarettes out on his own skin,
talked to himself, attempted to enter the priesthood, and got evicted
from an apartment after he repeatedly pounded on the floor, shouting at
people who were not there.
By 1972, Mullin was 25 and had moved
back in with his parents in Santa Cruz. By now he was hearing voices in
his head that told him an earthquake was imminent, and that only through
murder could he save California (Mullin's birthday, April 18, was the
anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, which he thought very
On October 13, 1972, Mullin went out
and battered a homeless man to death with a baseball bat. He was to
claim that the victim was Jonah from the Bible, and that he had sent
Mullin a telepathic message saying, "Pick me up and throw me over the
boat. Kill me so that others will be saved."
The next victim was Mary Guilfoyle,
24, who Mullin picked up hitch-hiking. He stabbed her to death, sliced
open her stomach and dumped her corpse at the side of the road. When
Guilfoyle's body was found, it was mistakenly thought to be a victim of
another serial killer operating in the area at the time, Edmund Kemper.
In November, Mullin claimed his third
victim when he went to confess his sins but ended up stabbing the
priest, Father Henri Tomei, to death. After that, Mullin decided to join
the U.S. Marines and actually managed to pass the physical and
psychiatric tests. However, he was refused entry when it was found out
that he had a number of minor arrests for his bizarre and disruptive
behaviour in the past. This rejection fuelled Mullin's paranoid
delusions of conspiracies, behind which he believed was a powerful group
Having purchased several guns, Mullin
decided to kill Jim Gianera, a high school friend who had sold him
cannabis, a drug that Mullin thought might have worsened his mental
condition. However, when Mullin went to Gianera's house on January 25,
1973, he found that his old friend had moved away. The house was now
occupied by Kathy Francis, and she gladly gave Gianera's new address.
Mullin thanked her and immediately went to the address he had been
given, where he slaughtered both Gianera and his wife with shots to the
head, then stabbed their bodies repeatedly. Having accomplished his
mission; Mullin then went back to Francis' house, where he shot her and
her two sons, aged 9 and 6, dead. Because Francis' husband — who was
away at the time — was a drug dealer, the five murders were thought to
be motivated by drug trafficking. (It would later be pointed out by
prosecutors that the murder of Kathy Francis eliminated Mullin's claims
of not guilty by reason of insanity because he killed her to remove a
witness who could link him to the Gianera killings.)
On February 10, Mullin was wandering
around Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park where he saw four teenaged boys
out camping. He walked over to them, engaged in a brief conversation and
claimed to be a park ranger, then, without provocation, pulled out a gun
and shot all of them to death.
The final murder took place three
days later on February 13. Mullin was driving along when a voice
apparently told him to kill someone. He pulled over and shot dead an old
man who was mowing his lawn. Then he got back into his car and cruised
off. It was broad daylight and there were a number of witnesses, and
Mullin was quickly arrested. In the space of four months he had killed
In custody, Mullin confessed to his
crimes, and also his motive, that he had been told by voices in his head
to kill people in order to prevent an earthquake (and he claimed the
fact that there had not been an earthquake recently was due to his
Mullin was eventually charged with 10
murders (he was not charged with the first three), and his trial opened
up on July 30, 1973. Mullin had admitted to all the crimes and therefore
the trial focused on whether he was sane and culpable of his actions.
The fact that he had covered his tracks and shown premeditation in some
of his crimes was put forth by the prosecution, while the defense argued
that the defendant had a history of mental illness. On August 19, the
verdict was delivered. Mullin was declared guilty of first-degree murder
in the cases of Jim Gianera and Kathy Francis — because they were
premeditated — while for the other eight murders Mullin was found guilty
of second-degree murder because they were more impulsive.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment
and will be eligible for parole in 2025, when he will be 77.
Killing to save California from Earthquakes
between inner and outer landscapes is breaking down. Earthquakes can
result in seismic upheavals within the human mind." -- William S.
Why did Herbert
Mullin brutally slaughter thirteen innocent victims, including children,
campers, and a Catholic priest, who was stabbed in his confessional
booth on "All Souls Day"?
If you asked the
police, Mullin was whacked-out druggie with "Legalize Acid" tattooed on
his belly. Mullin's lawyers argued that he was a deluded, paranoid
schizophrenic. And if you ask serial killer Edmund Kemper, who
terrorized Santa Cruz in the same time frame, "Herbie was just a
cold-blooded killer . . . killing everyone he saw for no good reason,"
he said. "I guess that's kind of hilarious, my sitting here so
self-righteously talking like that, after what I've done."
To hear Herb
Mullin tell it, he is a hero, a sacrificial scapegoat, who killed his
"consenting" victims to save California from a cataclysmic earthquake.
His father, war veteran Martin William Mullin, had telepathically
commanded his son to murder: "Why won't you give me anything? Go kill
somebody -- move!"
Ronald Reagan's name got tossed in the "who's responsible" roster. As
the governor of California, his administration rapidly shut down the
mental health hospitals in the early 1970's. After Mullin's trial, the
jury foreman wrote an open letter to Reagan, accusing him and the
legislators of being "as responsible" for the murders as Mullin. Reagan
called Mullin's release a "psychiatric mistake."
In the end, a
natural disaster might have been preferable to the unnatural disaster
called Herbert Mullin. His rampage began on October 13th 1972 and ended
January 13th, 1973. He killed thirteen people. Mullin bashed the skull
of alcoholic drifter with a baseball bat, eviscerated a female
hitchhiker, stabbed a priest to death in his confessional, shot and
stabbed a drug dealer's wife and children and a young married couple,
murdered four teenage campers executioner style, and shot a retired
boxer with a rifle in his front yard.
There was no
evident pattern to his mayhem. Mullin himself was articulate and polite,
sitting in on Bible study groups and working for Goodwill Industries. He
had even been voted "Most Likely To Succeed" by his high school peers.
The community, which had been horrified by senseless murders, clamored
for some sort of rhyme or reason. Yet, at the trial, as he spouted his
bizarre philosophies, Mullin created more questions than he answered.
Santa Cruz was shocked that a madman such as this could be roaming the
was mentally ill with paranoid schizophrenia. He said his victims
telepathically gave him permission to kill them. But schizophrenics can
choose to "disobey" their voices. And although many serial killers use
mental illness to excuse their heinous behavior, schizophrenics are not
more likely to kill than the sane population. So what pushed Mullin over
the edge? And would the jury, who saw for themselves that Mullin was
genuinely disturbed, find him legally insane?
Childhood, Abnormal Adult
"I believe that
my father has been unequally blamed for my failures. But surely, if he
had given me the six-year old homosexual "blow job" oral stimulation
that I was entitled to, like most other people get, I would never had
taken LSD without his permission." -- Herbert Mullin after his arrest
was born April 18th, 1947, a date which held great significance for him
later. April 18th was the anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco
Earthquake. It was also the anniversary of Albert Einstein's death. Both
of these events would, in Herb's twisted mind, give him a cosmic duty to
As a child,
Herbert Mullin was described as bright and gentle-natured. When Herb was
five, the Mullins moved from a small farming community to San Francisco,
where his father, Martin William Mullin, worked as a furniture salesman.
Herb and his older sister attended parochial school. By all accounts,
the Mullins were a well-adjusted, educated family. Bill Mullin had been
a military hero in WWII, and he was considered stern, but never abusive.
He was proud of his service, and relayed war stories to his son, and
even taught him how to use a gun. Sometimes the elder Mullin would
playfully box with his young son in the kitchen before dinner -- Herb
would later interpret these matches as a deadly challenge by his
According to the
adult Herb, his entire childhood was destroyed by a conspiracy led by
his parents. He saw his parents as "killjoy reincarnationalists," who
"believe that by spoiling the enjoyment of others they improve their
birth-position in the next life." Herb later testified that he believed
his father threatened to kill anyone who would play with Herb, and even
went door to door asking that everyone ignore his son. Even the
Communion services were diabolical: "When I was in the second grade they
told me that Jesus Christ, the person, actually lives in the Holy
Eucharist. . . . It is a lie, designed to induce naiveté and gullibility
in young children. Thereby making them susceptible to receive and carry
out telepathic subconscious suicide orders."
But this is
schizophrenic hindsight. At the time, Herb seemed happy. When he was
halfway through high school, the Mullins moved to Felton, a small town
among the majestic Redwoods in Santa Cruz county. Despite being uprooted
at a vulnerable age, Herb made many friends in high school and was
envied as one of the "popular" crowd. He played varsity football, had a
steady girlfriend, and was voted "most likely to succeed." (A macabre
prophecy, considering that Herb would become Santa Cruz county's most
prolific serial killer.)
After graduating in 1965, Herb went to Cabrillo
College and studied engineering. He considered joining the army.
Everything was going great. But then paranoid schizophrenia changed all
that stands out as the "trigger" to Herb's deteriorating sanity was the
tragic death of his best friend, Dean Richardson, who was killed in a
car accident the summer after high school graduation. Herb was
devastated, and fell into a state of macabre despair, building "shrines"
in his room to Dean, where he spent hours alone. He wondered if Dean's
death was some sort of cosmic sacrifice, and became obsessed with the
idea of reincarnation. Although raised as a Catholic, Herb began to
fervently study Eastern religions, looking for answers -- answers to the
tragedy of a lost friend, and answers to the voices that were suddenly
haunting his thoughts. He changed his major from Engineering to
Philosophy at the state college he attended, but dropped out after a few
In the spring of
1966 he ran into a friend of Dean's at the beach named Jim Gianera.
Gianera gave him some pot, and told him about the anti-war movement.
Mullin later said that "Gianera spearheaded a movement to befuddle and
confuse me," and that the pot Gianera gave him damaged his brain. "If
Gianera had given me some Benzedrine instead, I would have become an
He alienated his
longtime girlfriend with his sudden involvement in hallucinogenic drugs.
He talked about an impending California earthquake, and moving to Canada
to avoid it. His weird glares and bizarre ramblings gave her the creeps.
And he was becoming violent. When he told her in 1968 that he might be
gay, the relationship was over.
On the surface,
Herb's rebellious activities were typical of the times. He experimented
with drugs and horrified his military-bred father by declaring himself a
Consciousness Objector to the Vietnam war. He announced that he was
going to India to study yoga. But his behavior escalated from weird to
alarming. One night in 1969, while visiting his sister, he mimicked his
brother-in-law's every gesture and word. (This is called echolalia and
echopraxia, symptomatic of schizophrenia.)
His sister later described
it: "When my husband would eat, Herb would eat. Whatever my husband
would do, Herb would do. And that went on for four hours. Then he just
sat and stared at us." The next day his family took him to a mental
hospital, where he voluntarily committed himself, but he was soon out on
his own. Herb later asked his sister to have sex with him, and when she
declined, he asked if is brother-in-law would sleep with him.
The whole family
grimly worried for his safety, as well as their own.
Because he had
been so normal as a child, the Mullins thought Herb's suddenly scary
behavior was drug-induced. After all, it was Santa Cruz in the late
1960's -- marijuana farms and acid labs flourished in the nooks of the
Loma Prieta mountains. Counter-culture blossomed in the laid-back beach
town, where hippies lived off the land, women hitchhiked, and drugs were
easily accessible. Even fifth graders were selling pills at school,
according to the local papers.
It wasn't a
stretch to think Herb was on drugs -- "Legalize Acid" was tattooed on
his belly. Although he dabbled in acid and pot use, he did not indulge
more than his peers -- but mixing recreational drugs with mental illness
is a concoction for psychosis.
A Danger to
"If I was
allowed to go into the Coast Guard or the Marine Corps, I would not have
taken all those peoples' lives." -- Herb Mullin
a hideous mental illness, which can devastate the life of a promising
young adult. Typically, symptoms flare up in the late teens to early
twenties, including hearing voices, an intense paranoia of others, and
release from the Mendecino State Hospital in 1969, Herb took a
dishwashing job in South Lake Tahoe, but soon quit. He returned to Santa
Cruz, where a ranger found him sitting cross-legged in a trance-like
state, as if meditating. When the ranger asked him to leave, Mullin
continued to stare straight ahead, but slowly reached for a hunting
knife by his side. The ranger caught him before he grabbed the knife,
and took him to jail, but he was soon released.
down to San Luis Obispo, and told his roommate that he had been
"receiving messages" which were telling him to do things. After
meditating, he "ritualistically" burned the end of his penis with a lit
cigarette, and later made an aggressive pass at his male friend, whose
uncle was a psychiatric doctor. Mullin was promptly committed to a
psychiatric hospital: "As a result of mental disorder, said person is a
danger to others, a danger to himself, and gravely disabled."
In 1970 he met
an older woman, and flew to Hawaii with her, but within days he was back
in the psychiatric ward. He preached yoga, non-violence, and left the
premises to look for a job while wearing his hospital gown. When his
parents paid for his flight home, he scared them so much with his
psychotic rants that they pulled off the road to call the police.
released, and returned to Santa Cruz. His sanity continued to
deteriorate, and his behavior grew increasingly erratic. He blazed
through fads as if trying to secure an identity and peace of mind. He
shaved his head, went on a macrobiotic diet, and rapidly lost weight.
Later he wore a big black sombrero and faked a Mexican accent, then
became a boxer.
Although he preached anti-violence, he smashed a hatchet
against a fireplace when an Asian woman ignored his suggestion that they
have a biracial child together. Mullin swung from counter-culture to
ultra conservative -- while in court for bizarre behavior on the
streets, he demanded that the judge legalize LSD and marijuana, yet at
he later despised hippies and flower children. After being a
conscientious objector, he tried to join the Marines. Herb wasn't just
bisexual, as he insisted in court, or biracial, as he pretended to be.
He was bi-everything -- bipolitical, bispiritual, bicultural.
Herb knew there
was something wrong. He obsessed over his life, trying to figure out
what went wrong, and who sabotaged his mind. He blamed his father for
being too sexually uptight, and later accused him of being a mass
murderer who commanded him to kill by telepathy. He blamed the drugs he
took for messing up his brain, and targeted the drug dealers. He blamed
the hippies for brainwashing him into being a conscientious objector. He
tried drug treatment centers, he tried outpatient clinics for the
mentally ill, but didn't stick with anything. He later even tried Bible
study meetings, but made everyone uneasy when he declared, "Satan gets
into people and makes them do things they don't want to."
In May 1971,
When Herb was 23, he moved to San Francisco, away from the watchful eye
of his family. Donald Lunde, a psychiatrist who examined Mullin and
later wrote The Die Song, believes that this was a critical period in
Herb's psychosis. He lived in decrepit apartments among alcoholics and
drug addicts, sinking further into his bizarre belief systems. Mullin
walked into the YMCA with a Bible, and soon became a fierce boxer. In
his first Golden Gloves tournament, he wouldn't stop assailing his
opponent -- trainers had to pull him away. He punched a speedbag until
his knuckles were covered with blood. If left unattended, he stood still
and loudly chattered with himself.
After losing his
first match in the ring, Mullin left the boxing ring with the plans to
become a priest. He dabbled in art. After punching the floors of his
apartment, and getting into screaming matches with God, the apartment
manager evicted him. "He left the human race that day," said an artist
1972, Mullin moved in with his parents, determined to make something of
himself. But he stopped taking his medication, and he festered in his
anger at his father while living under his roof. And to top it all off,
a major earthquake was predicted to devastate California in the next few
months. Although the eccentric, self-taught scientist who grimly
announced the tremblor wasn't taken seriously by most, there was one
person who took it as a call to action. Where most people saw a
crackpot, Mullin saw a prophet.
mistake, Mr. Mullin hears voices, and the voices told him to kill. The
acts were not acts of murder -- but acts of sacrifice." -- James
Jackson, Mullin's attorney
On a wet October
morning, Friday the thirteenth, Herbert Mullin found a baseball bat in
the garage, and went for a drive. Earlier in the week, he claimed that
his father had been sending him telepathic messages to kill: "If I
didn't kill, it would bring shame to the family by showing cowardice,"
he said. "It was kill or get out."
As he drove
along the windy road that followed the river through the redwoods,
Mullin spotted a transient walking alone.
After he passed him, he pulled over, popped the hood of his '58 Chevy
station wagon, and pretended to have car trouble. When the homeless man,
Lawrence White stopped to take a look at the engine, Mullin bashed his
head with the baseball bat. He then pushed the lifeless body of the
would-be good Samaritan down the side of the road, and drove off. "Then,"
Mullin said, "the ball was rolling."
White was an
easy target, and wasn't missed. Between stints in the drunk tank, the
55-year-old transient slept under bridges and in the woods where he
wouldn't be hassled. He was a "blank," barely mentioned in the papers
when his battered body was discovered days later. No family came to his
funeral, and no one rushed out to find his killer.
claimed that White looked like Jonah from the Bible, and sent him
telepathic messages: "Hey, man, pick me up and throw me over the boat.
Kill me so that others will be saved."
As a means of
understanding serial killers, renowned FBI investigator Jon Douglas used
this figure of speech: "If you want to understand the artist, look at
his work." Mullin took the notion a step further -- if you want to
understand the artist, recreate his work. After reading Irving Stone's
biography on Michelangelo, The Agony and the Ecstasy, Mullin decided
that, as a serious artist, he should do what the famous Renaissance
sculptor did -- dissect a body. "Michelangelo spent hours and hours
secretly dissecting bodies so he could find out about the form of the
human body for his painting and sculpture and stuff. That's why his
works are so much better than anyone else's. It gave him insight others
didn't have." His mom had given him the Michelangelo book, hoping that
Herb would be inspired to use art as an emotional outlet. What it
inspired was another murder, and the most grisly one in Mullin's career.
(In a rare twist of maternal wrath, Herb blamed his mother for this
killing, believing that she gave him the book as a "hint" to dissect
someone. "I think she was trying to tell me what to do, so I could have
this insight too.")
was running late for a job interview, so she did what many young women
in Santa Cruz did, despite the warnings -- she hitched a ride. Although
she was fortunate that Edmund Kemper wasn't making the rounds that day
on this main thoroughfare near Cabrillo Community College (just a few
blocks from his duplex home,) she underestimated the driver of the '58
Chevy station wagon that pulled up alongside her. No doubt that the
twenty-four year old Guilfoyle had heard the cautionary tales about
women, last seen hitchhiking, who were missing. Or raped. Or found
decapitated. But the slight, doe-eyed young man behind the wheel didn't
look like a lecherous brute. He was handsome, soft-spoken and not much
bigger than her.
relaxed in the car, Mullin pulled off onto a quiet side street, yanked
out a hunting knife, and stabbed her in the chest and back. Guilfoyle
died instantly. But she would not be found for months.
her body into a deserted area off the hillside road, Mullin opened
Guilfoyle up and unraveled her organs. Mullin thought he could see
inside people's heads -- but now he wanted to see inside their bodies.
Whatever it was he saw, it was enough to dissuade him from recommitting
this grotesque and morbid autopsy again. If voices were commanding him
to kill, he was overextending into fetishistic savagery.
On November 2,
All Souls Day, one of the holiest of Catholic celebrations, Mullin
stumbled into a church in Los Gatos, just over the hills from Santa
Cruz. He had been drinking, and decided to go to St. Mary's Catholic
Church "to give me strength to never attempt to kill again." Within
moments he was brutally stabbing a priest to death in his confessional
booth with his hunting knife. (He later claimed he carried the knife
into the church to "protect" himself.)
the church was empty, but when he heard Father Henri Tomei in one of the
booths, he decided, "Well, if you (the priest) are in here, I guess I
should kill you." He tried to force the confessional door open. Tomei,
hearing the commotion, opened the door to see what was going on. Mullin
attacked Tomei with a hunting knife, stabbing him in the heart as he
struggled, trapped in the confines of his narrow confessional. A
parishioner walked in and, seeing the struggle, screamed and ran out.
She got a glimpse of a young man dressed in black -- struggling with the
priest, it must have been a blur of black and blood.
was outraged by the senseless murder of 65-year-old Tomei, a hero in the
French Resistance movement World War II. Some worried that it was the
work of a Satanic cult. Civic leaders attended his funeral, and so did
the police, hoping to catch a glimpse of the man dressed in black. But
Mullin did not return. He did, however, leave fingerprints at the crime
third victim would be a Catholic priest fits with his fleeting malice
toward organized religion. Religion was fine with Mullin, as long as it
was his own bizarre concoction. In 1970 he disrupted a Sunday morning
service in a Catholic church, telling the startled congregation that "what
you are doing is wrong." Mullin then offered his own philosophy as an
alternative, but was physically tossed out before he could harvest any
converts. He tried to persuade his fellow mental patients at a
psychiatric ward in San Luis Obispo to help him change "the spiritual
nature of the world." He got into yelling matches with God, terrifying
his roommate in San Francisco. Yet Mullin's rebellion against religion
often flipped into a full embrace of Catholicism. He carried a Bible
around, and talked about becoming a priest. His mother was shocked by
his murder of a Catholic priest. "He'd been a deeply religious child,
you know, altar boy in the Catholic Religion," she said.
Father Tomei, Mullin seems to have struck close to the source of his
anger -- his own stern, Roman Catholic father. Father Tomei's murder
agitated him more than any of his victims, according to psychiatrist
Donald Lunde. In his typical pattern of "kill and make up," Mullin now
wanted to appease his father, and tried to follow in his footsteps by
joining the armed forces. The military seemed like the ideal solution --
Mullin could indulge his violent urges with the blessings of the state.
he applied to join the Coast Guard. When he was denied in December after
failing the psychological exam, he lapsed into his paranoia that it was
all a conspiracy against him. The hippies and war resistors were to
blame -- they brainwashed him by giving him drugs and talked him into
being a Conscientious Objector. Now the voices were back, urging a
sacrifice. And this time he was going after the people who ruined his
life. "The peace advocates and flower children had played tricks on my
mind, and I had to reap vengeance," he told Dr. Lunde.
He targeted a
long time friend and fellow drug user, John Hooper, and brought a
hunting knife to his house. But there were nine other people there.
Mullin realized it was time to upgrade his killing method, and bought a
gun. At the gun shop he gave his occupation as a "sketch artist," lying
about his stints in the psychiatric wards.
But for some
reason, Mullin decide to hold off on killing the flower children.
Instead, he applied to the Marine Corps. The recruiting sergeant was
reluctant, but after Mullin's badgering he recommended him for service.
He wrote in his official report: "Herbert William Mullin is an
intelligent and highly motivated young man, with an ultrazealous
eagerness to enlist in the USMC . . . Because of Herb's earnest desire
to improve his lot and climb above his peers, as it were, I submit that
Herbert William Mullin can, and most likely will, be a benefit to
whatever unit he is assigned and a credit to his corps." Mullin was
tremendously excited that his application had been accepted -- he now
had a purposeful mission.
On January 15,
1973, Mullin passed both the physical and psychiatric exams for the
Marines, but when he stubbornly refused to sign a document acknowledging
his arrest record, he was dismissed. He was devastated, bitterly
denouncing his parents for their failures in raising him. But they had
enough of Herb's rantings, and told him it was time to move out. On
January 19, Mullin found a shabby apartment near the beach, where he sat
alone, his resentments festering, and the kill-voices filling his brain.
He decided to
kill the "most important peace advocate," Jim Gianera, his high school
has a pattern to it. It's not a case of some crazy man running around
shooting people." -- Santa Cruz Police Captain Overton, trying to quell
public concern, after the Gianera/Francis murders
distorted logic, Jim Gianera represented everything that messed up his
life. Gianera gave him the drugs that caused his brain to malfunction;
Gianera told him about the peace movement which made all of society shun
him, and he even "tricked" him out of buying land. Mullin, alone and
fuming in his disappointments, decided that Gianera had duped him.
Spot cabin where Kathy Francis and her two sons were shot (UPI/San
On January 25,
1973, Mullin drove to a shanty area hidden away on muddy road near the "Mystery
Spot," a popular Santa Cruz tourist trap in the mountains. Soaked by the
rain, he waited for Kathy Francis to come to the door of the wooden
shack she shared with her husband Bob (who was in Berkeley, closing a
drug deal) and her two children, 9 year-old David and 4 year-old Daemon.
When Mullin asked to see Jim, Kathy told him that Jim and his wife Joan
moved to Western Avenue in town. Mullin thanked her and left. But he
would be back.
let the casual acquaintance into his home, Mullin cried "You're
claptrapping me!" and shot Jim as he tried to escape. Wounded, he
dragged himself upstairs, where his wife was taking a bath. Mullin
followed him and shot them both in the head. With his hunting knife, he
stabbed both of the Gianeras to the point of overkill. The Gianeras
would be discovered later that day by Joan's mother, who was babysitting
their infant girl.
to go back to Mystery Spot Road and kill Kathy Francis and her two boys
was the most "logical" of Mullin's otherwise unfathomable killings.
Francis was a potential witness, and he was terrified of jail. He drove
back to the Francis home, parked his station wagon down the road so it
wouldn't get stuck in the mud, shoved the cabin door open, and opened
fire. He shot Kathy in the chest and head, and killed the two boys as
they played chinese checkers on their bunk bed. In his rage he stabbed
all three, even though they were apparently dead.
looked like a "drug burn" to the local authorities. Both Bob Francis and
Jim Gianera were known marijuana dealers. After Bob Francis was found
and cleared as a suspect, the police asked him come up with any suspects.
Bob produced a long list of drug dealers, rivals, and other misfits, but
Herb Mullin was not on the list. In fact, the last that Jim Gianera had
seen of Mullin was in the summer of 1971, when Mullin did 10 hits of
acid during a visit. A few months later Mullin sent Gianera a weird
letter, asking him who he was going to vote for in the upcoming November
elections. Bob Francis and Jim Gianera laughed at it, and didn't give
Mullin much thought after that.
county was petrified. In 1970 John Linley Frazier terrorized the town
with his cold-blooded execution of the Ohta family and secretary. A note
under the windshield wiper of the Ohta's Rolls Royce was frightfully
Mansonesque: "Today world war 3 will begin as brought to you by the
pepole of the free universe," and warned that anyone abusing the
environment for the sake of materialism will die. Gun sales rose sharply,
especially among homeowners, who took the threat seriously. Some thought
it was a bloodthirsty ecological cult, but Frazier, who was diagnosed as
a paranoid schizophrenic, had acted alone. He did have some competition,
however . . .
hitchhikers began vanishing in April 1972. Some had been found
decapitated. On February 5, 1973, Alice Liu and Rosalind Thorpe
disappeared. The next day, a 79-year-old widow was found raped and
strangled to death in her bathtub. Before the month was over, another
six victims would be discovered. And many hitchhikers were being raped.
Was this the work of one fiend?
A few days
after the Liu and Thorpe disappearance, Guilfoyle's skeleton was
discovered on February 11. Earlier, Cynthia Schall's body parts had been
found strewn along the coast, and Mary Ann Pesc's head was discovered in
the Loma Prieta mountains. Yet college women continued to hitchhike,
insisting it was a lifestyle.
Cowell State Park, the Card brothers built a temporary campsite out of
plastic sheets and spare wood, far from the ranger's route. They chose a
spot called the "Garden of Eden," and on February 10th, the four
teenagers who lived in it were about to be permanently expelled. The
wrath of the camp rangers would have been nothing compared to the wrath
of Herb Mullin, self-styled avenging angel.
discovered the illegal campsite when he wandering around in the woods.
The four boys, Brian Scott Card, David Oliker, Rober Spector, and Mark
Dreibelbis, invited him in, but Mullin was hostile. He demanded that the
boys pack up and leave, because they were defacing government property.
(Mullin was angry that he had been hassled by a ranger for doing the
same thing a while earlier, and didn't think it was fair that these
teenagers should get away with it.) The boys looked at the scowling
Mullin, comic in his intent to enforce the law, and laughed at him. As
they argued, Mullin said, "I decided to kill them, and asked them
telepathically if I could, and they all answered yes. They were all in a
sitting position, and it was all over in a few seconds." Later, Mullin
would say that "they asked for it." He meant it literally, but
prosecutors took it as proof of his hatred for renegade campers, hippies,
flower-children, and other counter-culture deviants. Had he ever really
asked for the victim's "permission," it's likely he would not have had
The scene of
carnage in the woods, discovered a week later by the brother of one of
the victims, revealed a desperate struggle that lasted more than a
humane "few seconds." One of the teenagers was shot trying to claw his
way through the plastic walls. They were trapped, and Mullin viciously
shot them one by one. When Mullin was finished, he took their rifle and
"We must be
the murder capital of the world right now." -- Santa Cruz District
Attorney Peter Chang
12, trapshooters found Mary Guilfoyle's remains. Again, police warned
against the danger of hitchhiking, and implored young women to stay out
of the cars of strangers. "It's like Russian Roulette," they said. But
this warning carried little weight with the victim Mullin would hit
tomorrow -- who would have known that puttering in your front yard at
eight in the morning could be deadly?
13, Mullin planned to bring some firewood to his parent's home. But a
telepathic message came from his father: "Don't deliver a stick of wood
until you kill somebody." The voice suggested Uncle Enos, but when Herb
resisted, the voice wasn't as particular. Just kill somebody, anybody.
by Fred Perez as he worked in his driveway. It was a still, foggy
morning. He shot the retired prize-fighter once in the heart, and he
died instantly. Mullin sat quietly in his car for a moment, holding the
rifle he took from the campsite a few days ago. Then he backed up, and
drove away slowly.
If, for Mullin,
the young campers represented his own "flower child" phase that he now
wanted to wipe away, his thirteenth victim, Perez, oddly enough,
represented someone who Mullin wanted to be. "He was someone I respected,"
Mullin said, although he didn't know him. He had no explanation for why
he shot Perez. The prosecution would later argue that it was a "come
catch me" crime, that Mullin was ready to call it quits.
there was a witness -- a neighbor heard the shot, and peering out her
window, caught a glimpse at the killer's vehicle. Mullin was headed
toward Felton, his Chevy station wagon filled with firewood for his
parents, with the rifle in the front seat, covered by a paper bag. A
policeman pulled him over without backup, and arrested him. Mullin
didn't resist. But he wouldn't speak either.
At the police
station Mullin sulked and refused to talk -- even routine questions such
as "do you have an attorney?" or "would you like to make a phone call?"
met with Mullin's loud reply of "Silence!" He continued to chant the
word "silence" until everyone had had enough. Frustrated investigators
ordered him to his cell. As they took him away, Mullin announced, "you
people were responsible for the three million killed in World War II."
The doctor at
the police station who examined Mullin was surprised by the garish
tattoos on his belly -- "LEGALIZE ACID" and "Eagle Eyes Marijuana."
Other tattoos read "birth," "Mahashamadhi," and "Kriya Yoga." Strange
tattoos for someone who appeared so clean cut and hated hippies with a
At his sparse
apartment, where Mullin had lived for the last three weeks, police found
a Bible, the paperback book Einstein -- The Life and Times, an address
book with Gianera listed, and newspaper articles about the recent
murders. The revolver had been discovered in his station wagon, and
ballistic tests were soon underway.
found the following note:
Let it be
known to the nations of earth and the people that inhabit it, this
document carries more power than any other written before. Such a
tragedy as what has happened should not have happened and because of
this action which I take of my own free will I am making it possible to
occur again. For while I can be here I must guide and protect my dynasty.
Like the thick
morning fog, speculation rolled through the Santa Cruz valley. Was this
diminutive young man the same guy who was beheading hitchhikers? The day
following his arrest, officials announced that ballistics proved that
Mullin had also killed the Francis family and the Gianeras. Those who
knew the 25 year-old Mullin remembered him as bright, deeply religious,
but somewhat uptight. But he had fallen into heavy drug use, and "blew
charged with six counts of murder. The count rose to ten after the
bodies of the campers were discovered two days later on February 17.
Bodies seemed to be turning up on a daily basis. But now that they had a
suspect in custody, Santa Cruz authorities looked at the recent unsolved
murders, hoping to tie them to Mullin. Investigators compared Mary
Guilfoyle's skeleton with the remains of other women found. Los Gatos
authorities submitted the fingerprints found at the church where Father
Tomei was stabbed to death. Reporters clamored for to know if it was the
Attorney Peter Chang, with some resignation, said, "We must be the
murder capital of the world right now." When asked why the murder rate
in Santa Cruz was so high, Chang said, "First, we've had a homicidal
maniac whom we know has killed ten people." After a reporter asked about
the additional five bodies of female hitchhikers, Chang grimly
responded, "We then have another homicidal maniac."
As much as
they would have liked to tie all of the murders to Herb Mullin, there
was no evidence that linked him to the murdered coeds. The "skillfulness"
of the decapitations of two women found on February 15, the same day as
Mullin's arraignment, convinced investigators that another killer was
working the area. Mullin's murders were not as anatomically precise or
obsessive. Although Mary Guilfoyle was similar to the other killer's
victim profile, she was not decapitated or dismembered. For now, there
were no links between Guilfoyle and the other unidentified serial killer
currently prowling the area.
tried to calm the public by playing up the drug dealer connection
between Mullin and his victims. Gianera and Francis were known dealers,
and the camping teenagers were described as "flower-children." The
campers might have been the victims of a drug deal gone bad. Tying the
elder, conservative Perez to "drug culture devotee" Mullin was more
difficult, but they found a way -- Perez had a grandson who did drugs,
who was close to Mullin's age. Maybe they had a falling out. "This is
the result of people flipping out, and people taking drugs, and people
doing their own thing," said D. A. Chang. Homeowners who were terrified
by the Ohta slayings in 1970 could relax. These murders were a counter-cultural
byproduct, not a menace to the good citizens of Santa Cruz.
But the court
would soon see that drugs alone could not account for Mullin's bizarre
"It looks like
he is going to make my job easy." -- District Attorney Chang on Mullin's
charged with ten counts of murder (he had not yet been charged with
killing Lawrence White, Father Henri Tomei, or Mary Guilfoyle, his first
three victims.) At his hearing on March 1, Mullin carried in a two
volume legal book, and startled the court by trying to plead "guilty."
But the judge refused to accept a guilty plea in a case of such
magnitude. "I won't accept that," Mullin replied. "You gave me a choice
and I chose."
lawyer tried to intervene, Mullin said, in his clipped manner of speech,
"I refuse counsel." He later insisted again on representing himself.
Defender James Jackson with Herbert Mullin. Courtroom sketch by Don
Juhlin (Donald Lunde, Murder and Madness)
When the judge
refused, Mullin said, pointing to his lawyer, James Jackson, "I don't
care to be represented by a longhair."
tried to assure Mullin of Jackson's competency, despite the fact that
his bushy hair was a little over the collar. (James Jackson, who had
been Frazier's defender, would later represent Edmund Kemper.)
"In that case,
I plead guilty to ten counts of first-degree murder." Back to square one.
Mullin was furious that he couldn't represent himself. The judge was
quickly losing patience with Mullin, and the trial hadn't even started.
He seriously doubted Mullin's competence to stand trial. D. A. Chang
said, "You can't just hand a guy a complaint and let him plead guilty to
ten counts of first degree murder. It we let him plead guilty, we would
be thrown out on our ear by the Supreme Court."
were called in to examine Mullin. It was unanimous -- Herbert William
Mullin was a paranoid schizophrenic. Typically, schizophrenics (Greek
for "split" and "mind") suffer from auditory hallucinations (hearing
voices), fragmented thinking ,and delusional belief systems of self-importance,
including being psychic. Despite rational evidence proving otherwise, a
schizophrenic will be convinced that there is a grand conspiracy against
them, so huge it can span from the FBI to intergalactic UFO's. Mullin's
extensive hospital records, along with his one-on-one examinations with
the doctors, convinced everyone that he was seriously mentally ill.
agreed that Mullin killed at least ten people. The trial would determine
whether he was legally insane when he did it. Legally speaking, insanity
is determined by the McNaughton standard, which says that if a defendant
understood the difference between right and wrong, then the defendant
was guilty. If a defendant makes an attempt to conceal the crime, this
can be taken as evidence that the defendant knew it was wrong. If Mullin
was found legally insane, then he would be considered not guilty.
Therefore, any actions Mullin took to hide what he did would be closely
Also at issue
was the notion of "diminished capacity." If Mullin did not understand
the meaning of his actions, he could not be found guilty of first degree
murder. His defense knew that "diminished capacity" was crucial to prove,
and constructed their case on Mullin's weird doctrines of dementia.
Mullin sat in
his jail cell, ceaselessly scribbled out his philosophies, convinced he
could explain the grand design behind his killing. He wrote on Jonah,
Einstein, and earthquakes. These delusional belief systems would support
his case, but not for the reasons in which he hoped. These bizarre notes
would provide important evidence for the defense in attempting to prove
from my years in Atascadero, I would say he is mentally ill." -- "Coed
Killer" Edmund Kemper's evaluation of Mullin
for trial, Mullin came face to face with the other "homicidal maniac"
who had been terrorizing Santa Cruz, Edmund Emil Kemper III. After a
murderous bender in April 1973, when he dismembered his mother and her
friend, he drove nonstop to Colorado. After being disappointed that
there wasn't a national manhunt out for him, he stopped at a payphone
called Santa Cruz police to confess that he was the notorious "Coed
Killer." Finally, after repeated calls, they sent officers to the phone
booth, where he was patiently waiting.
thought it would be amusing to give Kemper and Mullin adjoining cells.
The two mass murderers mixed like fire and brimstone. At 6' 9", Kemper
towered over the petite Mullin, and hassled him in any way he could.
Kemper boasted of his power over Mullin: "Well, [Mullin] had a habit of
singing and bothering people when somebody tried to watch TV. So I threw
water on him to shut him up. Then, when he was a good boy, I'd give him
some peanuts. Herbie liked peanuts. That was effective, because pretty
soon he asked permission to sing. That's called behavior modification
treatment." He also called Mullin a "creep with no class," and offered
to rat on Mullin if he heard him say anything incriminating. In return,
Mullin was disgusted by Kemper, and complained constantly about the
noise when he was trying to meditate.
and Kemper viewed their own killing rampages as missions, and thought
the other was a heathen. Mullin killed to save the world from
earthquakes, and despised Kemper as a brutish sex maniac. In turn,
Kemper said that Mullin "was just a cold-blooded killer . . . killing
everyone he saw for no good reason." Kemper thought he was the one with
the social statement, making a "demonstration to the authorities of
Santa Cruz" by killing the young women society treasured the most.
Together, the lumbering Kemper and diminutive Mullin must have looked
like the Laurel and Hardy of multiple murder.
Kemper is well-known
for his mother issues. Mullin, on the other hand, was transfixed by his
father. Killing a Catholic Father, and a retired war veteran might be
considered displaced aggravation against his own parent. He insisted
that his father, Martin William Mullin, was a mass murderer. "I want his
fingerprints to be taken and compared with all murders which occurred in
California and Oregon since 1925," he demanded. In addition to being
responsible for all murders on the West Coast since the twenties, Herb
also believed that his father telepathically ordered Dean Richardson to
commit suicide by crashing his car in 1965.
beings, through the history of the world, have protected our continent
from cataclysms by murder. In other words, a minor natural disaster
avoids a major natural disaster." -- Herb Mullin
trial began July 30, 1973, with the now predictable disruptions and
objections by the defendant. The formal plea had been entered as "not
guilty, and not guilty by reason of insanity." On the second day, the
shackled Mullin interrupted the proceedings by hobbling over to the
judge and handing him a "spacey" note, entitled "Observations of an
Observer from a Point on the San Francisco Peninsula," a two-page rant
claiming that someone had been going through his personal notebook.
mistake. Mr. Mullin hears voices, and the voices told him to kill," said
defense attorney James. "These were not acts of murder, but acts of
sacrifice." Jackson focused on Mullin's bizarre behavior before the
murder spree. Mullin thought he was a Mexican laborer, columnist Herb
Caen, and an eastern philosopher. Jackson then dramatically introduced
his client's "Kill-joy sadism" conspiracy theory. Everyone in Mullin's
life was out to destroy his chances for happiness, both in this life and
the next. He had to kill them.
takes the stand. Courtroom sketch by Don Juhlin (Donald Lunde, Murder
fixated their attention on the scowling, dark-haired Mullin, as he
rocked back and forth slowly in his chair. He showed little emotion
through the course of the trial, staring straight ahead at the wall when
witnesses testified. Mullin was annoyed that his defense was intent on
proving insanity -- he couldn't wait to get on the stand himself, and
tell them the truth of why he killed.
prosecution was brief. Bob Francis testified on Mullin's voracious
consumption of LSD. Weirdly, Mullin nodded his head in agreement as
Francis talked, as if it proved the necessity to kill Gianera. Joan
Gianera's mother recalled finding the young married couple shot to death
in the bathroom. Ballistics experts and medical examiners portrayed for
the jury the extent of Mullin's violent overkill, while Mullin hunched
over, taking extensive notes.
On August 4,
psychiatrist Donald Lunde testified on behalf of the defense to Mullin's
clinical diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, and played a cassette
where Mullin described his philosophy:
You see, the
thing is, people get together, say, in the White House. People like to
sing the die song, you know, people like to sing the die song. If I am
president of my class when I graduate from high school, I can tell two,
possibly three young male Homo sapiens to die. I can sing that song to
them and they'll have to kill themselves or be killed -- an automobile
accident, a knifing, a gunshot wound. You ask me why this is? And I say,
well, they have to do that in order to protect the ground from an
earthquake, because all of the other people in the community had been
dying all year long, and my class, we have to chip in so to speak to the
darkness, we have to die also. And people would rather sing the die song
I believe man
has believed in reincarnation for maybe, consciously, verbally, for ten
thousand years. And so they instituted this law . . . they used to do it
back then, ten thousand years ago. . . . Well, they let a guy go kill
crazy, you know, he'd go kill crazy maybe twenty or thirty people. Then
they'd lynch him, you know, or they'd have another kill crazy person
kill him. Because they don't want him to get too powerful in the next
life, you know. . .
"He told me,"
Lunde later wrote in his book The Die Song, "that if I would prepare a
chronology of the world's wars and famines and compare it with a list of
major earthquakes throughout history, I would see that when the death
rate goes up, the number of earthquakes goes down."
believed that the duty of sacrificing yourself or others (by murder) for
the sake of the community was best demonstrated by his interpretation of
Jonah. The thirteenth man must be a scapegoat and sacrifice himself for
I mean . . .
you read in the Bible about Jonah -- there was twelve men in the boat --
Jonah was in the boat, you know, it was just like Jesus you know, and
Jonah stood up and said, 'God darn! If somebody doesn't die, you know
all thirteen of us are going to die. And he jumped overboard, you know,
and he was drowned, you know. And the sea . . . about in a half hour or
so, it calmed down.
When Dr. Lunde
said that Jonah was pushed, and didn't die after all because he was spit
up by the whale, Mullin responded defensively, "I'm asking you to
swallow this Jonah story and believe that a minor natural disaster will
prevent a major natural disaster."
come up with the "killing to stop earthquakes" theory before or after he
was caught? Dr. Donald Lunde said that Mullin devised this theory years
earlier, citing Mullin's letters written to the UN and other
organizations, requesting statistics on yearly death tolls and natural
disasters. Among his personal
disjointed theories on the phenomenon. Because Mullin was born on April
18th, the anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, he believed
he had a privileged position among his generation to save it from future
earthquakes. Einstein died on April 18th, which proved (to Mullin) that
Einstein sacrificed himself so that Mullin would not have to be killed
in Vietnam, but could save the coast from earthquakes instead. "It's
grandiose," said Dr. Lunde.
conspiracy, Mullin argued, was his family's attempt to hide "the
healthiness of bisexuality" from him. He said that for most, homosexual
behavior begins around the age of eight. But his parents maliciously hid
this from him. Mullin speculated that everyone in his family practiced
homosexuality. He wrote that his entire family, including his aunt and
uncle, Bernice and Enos, were in on the plot to retard his sexuality:
When I was
five years old I feel intuitively that Bernice and Enos Fouratt talked
my parents into ignoring me. My parents actually did not tell me the
necessary facts of life, sex and death rate, social conversation
techniques, etc. Bernice and Enos did not have any children.
Bernice and Enos convince my parents that I should be shunned? My guess
is that my cousins and sister were having orgasms at age six. When I was
five Bernice and Enos wanted to stop my mental and physical growth. They
did not want me to mature.
. . . I think
they were jealous and envious of the fun and I and my parents were going
to have when I started to grow up normal. I think they believe in
reincarnation and that by confusing and retarding me they might improve
themselves in the next life.
testified about details of Mullin's homosexuality, which at one point
Mullin interrupted, in attorney-like fashion, and said, "I'll stipulate
that I'm bisexual."
Me Kill Crazy
told me he would kill a person in the next life if they associated with
me." -- Herb Mullin
prosecution and defense looked at William Martin Mullin as a reason
behind the murders, but with drastic differences in the level of
responsibility. The prosecution blamed Mullin's intense hatred of his
father, while Herb Mullin blamed his father directly for the murders. He
was the murderer, as far as Herb was concerned, because he was "telepathically"
issuing the kill-commands to his son. William Mullin was a Marine, who
was proud of his World War II service, and according to Herb, taught his
son that violence is "natural," and taught him how to shoot a gun with
the aim of a marksman.
It is hard to
know the extent of William Mullin's rational influence over his son. It
is not a crime to tell your son war stories, or to teach him to how to
handle a gun. Perhaps William Mullin was attempting to engage his child
in the events in his life that rendered the most meaning, which can be
true for many war heroes. And the boxing matches in the kitchen had
seemed to be no more than a little playful roughhousing before dinner.
But for Herb, these gestures were intimidating. He thought his father
was challenging him.
experience in the ring, he returned to his father's house, a month
before the murders began. He cornered his father with his fists up:
"Come on, let's go, it won't last long." Herb punched his father out. "It
scared me," the elder Mullin told Dr. Lunde. "It was such a departure
from what we had normally done all our lives . . . He was not the same
kid we had raised and known."
appeared to be a stoic, stern, but reasonable man. William Mullin even
wrote a letter supporting Herb's CO status, which must have greatly
upset him. Later Herb wrote to his dad: "My conscientious objection
thing was against your will. Well, that is past now. I don't know who
was right or who was wrong. All I know is that I got hurt real bad
because of all the confusion. Would you let me live in your home again?"
But at the trial, Mullin blamed his father for sending him to San Jose
State University, knowing that the anti-war movement was strong on the
campus and he somehow wanted to trick his son into falling in with the
caught in an spiral of rebellion and reconciliation with his father,
doing things that hurt him, then trying to win back his approval. One
psychiatrist, in his testimony for the prosecution, said that Mullin's
"inability to express hate to his father led to some of it being
misdirected to others."
"Father was a
Marine Corps sergeant and was used to ordering people to kill," said
Herb. "I feel I was under my father's control, like a robot." Throughout
the trial he asked Dr. Lunde and his attorney to compare the his
father's fingerprints to evidence from all the murder cases in Oregon
and California since 1925. If Herb could prove his father was a mass
murderer, perhaps they would go lighter on him.
takes the stand
On the stand
in his own defense, Mullin was described by one reporter as "striking a
lecturer's pose." He stood in the witness box with his many notes, and
blamed his family, friends, and teachers who wanted to keep him from
becoming "too powerful in the next life." Reincarnation wasn't just a
cosmic ponderance -- for Mullin, it explained everything. Everyone was
bargaining for power and position in the next life.
"I am chosen
as a designated leader of my generation," he said, because Einstein died
on his birthday. This birthday also "gives me an extremely dominant
position in the reincarnation." He believed that his parents told him
that "they were going to give me a good time in the next life but they
couldn't this time."
consenting to be murdered protects the millions of other human beings
living in the cataclysmic earthquake/tidal area. For this reason, the
designated hero/leader and associates have the responsibilities of
getting enough people to commit suicide and/or consent to being murdered
every day," Herb Mullin explained to the jury.
As far as his
victims go, Mullin said, "I never thought about them. I wasn't thinking,
I don't think. I was reacting." He claimed his victims consented to die,
in fact were willing to die, and told him so by psychic transmissions.
"Every homosapien communicates by mental telepathy. . . It's just not
accepted socially," he said.
He blamed his
father, and asked that he be removed from the courtroom before he
continued his testimony, but the judge refused. But his the elder Mullin
was moved so that his son wouldn't have to look at him.
He also blamed
the Santa Cruz police for not keeping him incarcerated after he was
arrested for drug possession. "I never would have killed anyone if they
sent me to jail. If they don't punish you for breaking the law, what
were they doing? Waiting until I broke a big law so they could put me in
prison all my life?"
admitted that he could, and did disobey commands to kill. He had
received telepathic commands to commit suicide, but refused. "If he was
the victim of irresistible voices, he would have killed himself," said
prosecutor Chris Cottle.
He said that
he ignored messages to kill. "I received a message in December I did not
act on. I just didn't want to kill anymore -- I just didn't think it was
right." This last statement was crucial to the prosecutions case against
Mullin. He was admitting he knew the difference between right and wrong.
He was not his father's "robot," powerless to disobey, as he had
He was capable
of selectively obeying his father's messages to kill. When he heard his
father tell him to kill his uncle Enos, Mullin refused, and the voice
then suggested an alternative victim. For all the fearful wrath Mullin
associated with these telepathic commands, they were surprisingly
reasonable and willing to negotiate.
Ill, but Sane?
If Mullin was
legally insane, and did not comprehend what he was doing was wrong, then
why did he take such careful measures to cover his tracks? Assistant D.
A. Chris Cottle told the jury that after killing White, he sandpapered
the blood stains off of the baseball bat. He picked up the shell casings
at the Gianera house, he claimed, "because they belonged to me." Mullin
shot Francis and her kids because they were witnesses. He ground off the
serial number on his .22 caliber gun. While the prosecutor presented his
case, Mullin, who usually avoided looking at anyone in the court, glared
But Mullin had
already undermined his case with reckless comments. Sometimes he sounded
coolly sane and rational. In an earlier interview, Mullin said that he
killed Joan Gianera because "she was a witness and I didn't want to be
theory was "developed as an afterthought," according to one court-appointed
psychiatrist who had examined Mullin. He killed Gianera for getting him
into drugs, and Joan, Kathy and Daemon and David because they were
witnesses. He killed the campers because "he had a thing about hippies,
an he described them as hippies." Another court-appointed psychiatrist
said that his motivation was pure hatred. "He told me John Gianera
introduced him to LSD, and that ruined his life and he took revenge."
In a strange
split, Dr. Charles Morris testified that after examining Mullin, he
concluded that he was legally insane when he murder the transient, the
hitchhiker, and the priest, but legally sane during the last ten murders.
In January, when he quit doing LSD in hopes of becoming a Marine, Mullin
killed out of revenge (with the exception of Perez). He had been made
morally numb by killing his first three victims, so that killing again,
especially out of anger, no longer carried moral consequences. Perez was
shot, he argued, because Mullin was tired and wanted to get caught.
contended that it was probably LSD that precipitated the murders. In
response, defense attorney Jackson read a note from Mullin, and asked
the doctor if the rambling was written by someone on drugs.
acknowledged that it was possible. The note was dated July 1973, months
after Mullin had been incarcerated. It was a complaint, written to the
judge by Mullin regarding court procedure.
that he heard the victims telepathically agree to be killed, said Dr.
Morris, was a concocted rationalization. "He developed this belief as an
afterthought," he said, and wasn't surprised by Mullin's cosmic
sacrificial excuses. "He's an individual with a high mental capacity and
an interest in the occult, psychology, and philosophy."
testified that Mullin told him, "I chose to be vindictive (because these
people) caused me to be an objector in the greatest country on earth, so
I punished them."
There was no
question that Mullin was mentally ill. To prove the legal definition of
insanity, the defense had to demonstrate that Mullin did not know the
difference between right and wrong at the time of the murders. If he was
found legally insane, then he would be found not guilty by the jury. If
the jury found that Mullin was suffering from "diminished capacity," in
that he did not understand the meaning of his actions, he could not be
found guilty of first degree murder. The prosecution told the jury it
did not matter "why" Mullin killed. Motives are ambiguous, and not
necessary to prove. In countering the defense's theory that Mullin's
delusions made him kill, the prosecution said, "simply because two plus
two equals seven (in his mind) does not mean Mr. Mullin is not
responsible for his acts."
the defense asked the jury to consider the fact that Mullin "kills
people because he has to but he doesn't know why. I suggest that a
person who kills thirteen people and doesn't know why . . . is MAD!"
prosecution told the jury, "There's no question he's mentally ill,
seriously mentally ill. But that does not mean he's legally insane." He
hid his crimes, and even ground down the serial numbers on his gun.
The six man,
six women jury deliberated for over fourteen hours, finding Mullin sane
and guilty. The verdict was delivered on August 19th, 1973. Mullin
premeditated the deaths of Jim Gianera and Kathy Francis, thereby making
two counts of first degree murder. The rest were considered "impulse" by
the jury, therefore second degree murder.
insane as Mullin is," said his defense attorney Jackson. "They were
afraid because he might get out and kill somebody -- which is not an
illogical consideration. They didn't want his fourteenth victim to be
one of them." The prosecution was disappointed with only two counts of
first degree murder. Mullin only shrugged when he heard his verdict.
Mullin was sentenced to life in prison, with the possibility of parole
case didn't sit right with the jury foreman. He soon took action.
resources for this article were the Santa Cruz Sentinel and the San
Francisco Chronicle, dated between February 1973 and August 1973.
Lustmord: The Writings and Artifacts of Murderers. Burbank: Bloat Books,
(This book has
a preface written by Herb Mullin, and includes some of his letters and
and Jefferson Morgan. The Die Song. New York: Norton Books, 1980. (Out
Murder and Madness. New York: Norton Books, 1975. (Out of print)