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Herbert Mullin

Mullin's mugshot
Background information
Birth name: Herbert Williams Mullin
Born: April 18, 1947 (1947-04-18) (age 62)
Salinas, California
Conviction: Murder
Sentence: Life imprisonment
Number of victims: 13
Span of killings: 1972 – 1973
Country: United States
State(s): California
Date apprehended: February 13, 1973

Herbert Williams Mullin (born April 18, 1947) is a serial killer who committed 13 murders in California in the early 1970s.[1]


Childhood and youth

Mullin was born in Salinas, California but was raised in Santa Cruz. His father, a World War II veteran, was strict but not 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 his best friends was killed in a car accident, and Mullin was devastated.[2] He built a shrine to his deceased friend in his bedroom. Later he expressed fears that he was homosexual, even though he had a long-term girlfriend at the time.

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 extinguished cigarettes on his own skin, 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.

Many years later, famed FBI profiler Robert K. Ressler would assert that Mullin had paranoid schizophrenia, manifesting as early as his senior year of high school and accelerated by the use of cannabis, LSD, or amphetamines.[3]

Murder spree

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 was very significant.

Mullin believed that the war in Vietnam had produced enough American deaths to forestall earthquakes as a sort of blood sacrifice to nature, but that with the war winding down so much by late 1972, he would need to start killing people in order to have enough deaths to keep the earthquake away.[3]

On October 13, 1972, Mullin went out and beat a homeless man to death with a baseball bat. The man, 55, had been hitchhiking and Mullin struck him down after tricking him into looking at the car engine.[3] Mullin was to claim later 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."[4] The man's body was found the next day.[3]

The next victim was Mary Guilfoyle, 24, whom Mullin also picked up hitchhiking. He stabbed her to death while he was driving. Later, he dumped her corpse in woods at the side of the road and sliced open her stomach. He then strung her intestines among tree branches to examine them for "pollution." When Guilfoyle's body was found, she was mistakenly thought to be a victim of Edmund Kemper, another serial killer operating in the area at the time. Because her skeletal remains were not found for several months, even though she was killed only two weeks after the male hitchhiker, police did not link the murders.[3]

Only four days later, on a Thursday in November, Mullin claimed his third victim when he went to confess his sins. In a delusional state, he believed the priest, Father Henri Tomei, wanted to volunteer to be his next sacrifice to keep away the earthquakes. He beat, kicked, and stabbed the priest to death. Father Tomei bled to death in the confessional while a parishioner watched Mullin run away. The witness description did not help the police.[3]

After that, Mullin decided to join the U.S. Marines, and passed 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 behavior in the past. This rejection fueled Mullin's paranoid delusions of conspiracies, behind which he believed was a powerful group of hippies.

By January, 1973, Mullin had stopped using drugs, and blamed them for his problems.[3] Mullin had purchased several guns and decided to kill Jim Gianera, a high school friend who had sold him marijuana. 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 gave him Gianera's new address. There, Mullin killed both Gianera and his wife with shots to the head, then stabbed their bodies repeatedly. Mullin then went back to Francis' house, where he shot and killed her and her two sons, aged 9 and 4. 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 argued 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 murders. In one published account of these murders, however, an FBI profiler states that Mullin killed the Francis family first and then wiped out the Gianera couple.[3]

About a month later, in early February 1973, 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. He ordered them to leave because they were "polluting" the forest, but they refused. He told them he would return the next day. The boys, who were armed with a .22 rifle, did not take this seriously. Mullin did return, shot them to death, and abandoned their bodies, which were not found until the next week.[3]

The final murder took place three days later, on February 13. Mullin was driving alone when he drove past an elderly Hispanic man who was weeding his lawn. For no apparent reason, Mullin made a U-turn, stopped his station wagon, and laid his rifle across the hood to aim, killing the man instantly. Then he got back into his car and "calmly" drove off. It was broad daylight and there were a number of witnesses, one of whom gave police the license plate number. A "docile" Mullin was captured a few minutes later.[3]


  • Lawrence White, 55. October 13, 1972.
  • Mary Guilfoyle, 24. October 24, 1972.
  • Fr Henri Tomei, 65. November 2, 1972.
  • Jim Ralph Gianera, 25. January 25, 1973.
  • Joan Gianera, 21. January 25, 1973.
  • Kathy Francis, 29. January 25, 1973.
  • Daemon Francis, 4. January 25, 1973.
  • David Hughes, 9. January 25, 1973.
  • David Allan Oliker, 18. February 6, 1973.
  • Robert Michael Spector, 18. February 6, 1973.
  • Brian Scott Card, 19. February 6, 1973.
  • Mark John Dreibelbis, 15. February 6, 1973.
  • Fred Perez, 72. February 13, 1973.

Trial and imprisonment

In custody, Mullin confessed to his crimes, and said that he had been told by voices in his head to kill people in order to prevent an earthquake. He claimed that the reason there had not been an earthquake recently was, in fact, due to his handiwork.

Mullin was eventually charged with 10 murders (he was not charged with the first three), and his trial opened on July 30, 1973. Mullin had admitted to all the crimes and therefore the trial focused on whether he was sane and culpable for his actions. The fact that he had covered his tracks and shown premeditation in some of his crimes was highlighted by the prosecution, while the defense argued that the defendant had a history of mental illness, and many believed that he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. On August 19, 1973, 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 78. He is incarcerated at Mule Creek State Prison, in Ione, California.


  1. ^ "Unnatural Disasters". Retrieved 2008-03-05. 
  2. ^ "Herbert Mullin". Retrieved 2008-03-05. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Ressler, Robert K. and Tom Schachtman. Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Hunting Serial Killers for the FBI. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992, pp. 127-132. ISBN 0312078838
  4. ^

External links

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