IONE – -The Santa Cruz serial killer who confessed to the murder of 13 people was denied parole for the 11th time on Thursday.
Herbert Mullin, 73, was convicted in 1973 and will continue to serve his life sentence in Mule Creek Prison in Ione. The parole board ruled Mullin’s next hearing would be in seven years.
Mullin graduated from San Lorenzo Valley High School in 1965. While attending Cabrillo College his longtime friend, Dean Richardson, was killed in an automobile accident on Graham Hill Road. As noted by psychiatrists testifying at Mullin’s trial, the loss and Mullin’s LSD abuse sent Mullin spiraling into mental illness.
For weeks, Mullin heard the voices of his parents chiding him to commit murder in order to prevent cataclysmic earthquakes from destroying California. On Oct. 13, 1972, Mullin acted, ambushing Lawrence White, a 55-year-old transient, along Highway 9 near the Rincon parking lot. Mullin murdered 12 more times during the next four months. His victims included a Catholic priest, four teenage boys and two children.
Mullin’s murder spree came on the heels of John Linley Frazier’s mass murder of the Ohta family and Dorothy Cadwallader in 1970. Frazier’s crimes shocked Santa Cruz and were reported around the world. At the same time, Mullin was trying to prevent natural disasters through human sacrifice, another serial killer was operating in Santa Cruz County at the same time. Edmund Emil Kemper III murdered six girls and women, before finally killing his mother and her friend and ultimately surrendering.
On Feb. 13, 1973, Mullin was caught after shooting retired fishmonger, Fred Perez, in broad daylight as Perez filled a pothole on the edge of his property on Gharkey Street in Santa Cruz. Perez was a well-known member of the Santa Cruz Wharf fishing community; his ancestors arrived in Santa Cruz in 1796. Perez’s neighbor, Joan Stagnaro, saw Mullin pull away from the crime scene and reported the murder. Mullin was arrested minutes later.
Mullin was found guilty of eight counts of second-degree murder and two counts of first-degree murder. Mullin was not tried for his first two killings. Four months later, he was convicted of second-degree murder for the killing of Henri Tomei, a Catholic priest, in Los Gatos. At the time of Mullin’s conviction in 1973, there was no death penalty in the United States; consequently, Mullin continues to come up for parole.
Mullin, the parole board, Santa Cruz District Attorney Jeff Rosell, a prosecutor from the Santa Clara District Attorney’s office Troy Benson, and Mullin’s defense attorney met via a teleconference call Thursday morning. The listing of Mullin’s extensive crimes took seven minutes.
As he has said in the past, Mullin stated that his family and friends placed him in a state of being naive, immature and gullible. According to Mullin, this resulted in his diagnosis of “undifferentiated schizophrenia,” which turned into “paranoid schizophrenia” and caused him to murder his 13 victims. Mullin claimed that he had recovered from his mental illness in 1983 with the caveat, “But I’m not the perfect person.”
Prosecutor Benson noted that Mullin has shifted blame from himself to his family and friends since 1973, adding, “Mr. Mullin is still blaming everyone else for what happened.”
Santa Cruz District Attorney Rosell agreed. Earlier in the hearing, he said of Mullin’s denial of responsibility, “Mr. Mullin is exactly where he was in 1973.”
In a chilling moment of the hearing, the commissioner of the parole board reminded Mullin that among his victims were a 4-year-old and a 9-year-old. Noting that Mullin was trying to prevent cataclysmic earthquakes, he then asked Mullin if he would have killed a baby if it had been in the house. After a pause, Mullin quietly responded, “No.”
If ever released, Mullin planned to go hiking and join a hiking club. He said that he would be willing to pay to see a psychiatrist and had enough money to pay for housing. Mullin noted that after the death of his parents he inherited $14,000, which he invested and is now worth $35,000.
While members of the parole board noted Mullin’s good behavior and listed his several jobs while incarcerated, they read excerpts from Mullin’s most recent psychological review in which a Department of Corrections doctor determined that Mullin still met the conditions of schizophrenia and in their assessment was a “high-risk” for recidivism. The doctor noted that Mullin was actually a higher risk now than he was the last time he had a parole hearing.
In his closing argument, Mullin said, “I believe I can become a worthwhile citizen in the United States if given the chance.”
For the time being, the parole board disagreed.
Dan Carter was a reporter for nomad Labs, before becoming the lead editor. Dan has over forty bylines and has reported on countless stories concerning all things related to tech and science. Dan studied at CSUF.