Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Herb Mullin

The Hippie Massacre

 "This thing 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

In Mullin's 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.

The Mystery Spot cabin where Kathy Francis and her two sons were shot (CORBIS)
The Mystery Spot cabin where Kathy
Francis and her two sons were shot
(CORBIS)

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.

When Gianera 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.

The decision 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.

The massacre 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 to 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.

Murderville

Santa Cruz 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 people 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 . . .

Female 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.

The Teenage Campers

In Henry 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.

The makeshift tent where Herb Mullin shot four teenage boys, (POLICE)
The makeshift tent where Herb Mullin
shot four teenage boys, (POLICE)

Mullin discovered the illegal campsite when he wandering around in the woods. The four boys, Brian Scott Card, David Oliker, Robert 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 many takers.

 

 

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 twenty dollars.

 

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