Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Herb Mullin

Father Drove Me Kill Crazy

"My father told me he would kill a person in the next life if they associated with me." — Herb Mullin

Both the 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.

Boxing with father

After Herb's 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."

Herb's father 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 counter-culture.

Herb was caught in a 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 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.

Mullin 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."

"One man 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 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?"

Disobeying Commands:

Mullin 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 previously said.

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.



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