Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Herb Mullin

Come Catch Me

 "We must be the murder capital of the world right now." — Santa Cruz District Attorney Peter Chang

The Final Victim

On February 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 pottering in your front yard at eight in the morning could be deadly?

On February 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.

Mullin drove 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.

This time there was a witness — a neighbor heard the shot, and peering out her window, caught a glimpse of 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 passion.

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.

They also 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 his mind."

Another killer?

Mullin was 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 to know if it was the same killer.

District 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.

People flipping out

Authorities 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 behavior.


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