Kim Springer says it all began so innocently, at a Fourth of July office outing to the Orange County Fair.
But postal worker Mark Hilbun didn’t want the evening to end. Within hours, the phone calls began. Then the bottled water and other odd gifts on Springer’s doorstep. Then the love letters, followed by ones more threatening. And finally, she says, Hilbun left a message inviting her to bring popcorn and watch him commit suicide on the beach.
“He’d follow me everywhere I’d go,” Springer told the Orange County Grand Jury in January. “I mean, at one point it was like three or four times a day he’d show up. I told him to go back and do his route and deliver his mail. And once I slapped him. I didn’t handle it very well.”
Investigators say it was Hilbun’s fixation with Springer that ultimately led to the fired postal worker’s murderous, two-day rampage across Orange County.
On May 6, 1993, Hilbun had come looking for Springer at the Dana Point Post Office when he shot and killed his best friend and wounded another postal worker. And before Hilbun was captured, his mother and her cocker spaniel were found killed.
After the postal facility shootings, Hilbun remained at large for several days until customers spotted him at a Huntington Beach bar and called police. He was arrested without incident.
Springer was unharmed that day, and has declined to talk publicly about her ordeal.
But grand jury transcripts recently unsealed offer the first detailed account of Springer’s months of fear and hiding as Hilbun pursued her.
Springer said her torment didn’t end with Hilbun’s arrest. Shortly after, a “weird” letter arrived in the mail.
Hilbun wrote that “he just found his place, and he saw the light . . . he’s happy and content, and he’ll be shown the way,” Springer testified. “I was really upset. I couldn’t believe he was writing me from jail.”
Hilbun, 39, of San Juan Capistrano was eventually indicted and is facing trial next February on two counts of murder and seven counts of attempted murder.
He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. His attorney, Deputy Public Defender Denise Gragg, said she plans to admit to jurors that Hilbun is responsible for the crimes. But Gragg said she believes the evidence will prove that Hilbun has long suffered from mental illness and was insane when the killing spree began.
According to the grand jury transcript, Hilbun’s rampage had begun at the Corona del Mar home where his mother, Frances, lived with her dog, Golden.
Authorities say the dog’s throat had been “cut out” and his mother was found lying in her bed, beneath blood-soaked blankets. She had been stabbed repeatedly.
Later, Hilbun arrived at the Dana Point Post Office, and investigators say he was intent on kidnaping Springer.
Prosecutor Bryan Brown told the grand jury that Hilbun was seeking revenge against postal officials who placed him on leave for his harassment of Springer, according to the transcripts.
Springer said that the harassment had been relentless since July 4, 1992, the night she went to the fair with Hilbun. She said she alerted her supervisors at the post office right away about Hilbun.
She changed her phone number twice because of his constant calls and obscene messages. Her boyfriend tried to stop Hilbun from bothering her.
“I just kept doing my job and just kept saying just, ‘Mark, you know, just leave me alone,’ ” she testified.
Hilbun’s escalating harassment and bizarre behavior resulted in his firing, according to the grand jury transcript.
One time, Hilbun had come to work “wide-eyed” and carrying a bag of rabbits. He threw the bag and animals at a co-worker, according to the transcript.
The final incident that led to the firing occurred when postal officials found Hilbun wearing his underwear outside his uniform and dancing wildly at his work station. When Hilbun was ordered to stop, he put the drawers on his head. He was ordered off the premises that day.
Hilbun’s stepsister, Jennifer Beneventi, testified that Hilbun told relatives he was going to marry Springer. Hilbun told his stepsister that that he wore the underwear outside his clothing because he lost a bet with himself that he would be dating Springer by a self-imposed deadline.
Beneventi also told jurors that Hilbun was enraged at postal officials and blamed them for his firing. Hilbun appealed the firing and but lost his case April 19, 1993, just a few days before the shooting, according to the transcript.
Springer told jurors that postal officials had talked of transferring her and put her on leave for her own safety in the days before the shooting because they “weren’t sure what Mark was up to.”
Two other employees--including the postmaster--were so fearful of the fired employee they began arming themselves.
“There were too many things going on,” said Postmaster Donald Lowe, who brought a gun for the first time on May 6. “I had gotten to a point where everything that could be done was done. Everyone was notified.
May 6, the day of the shooting, also was Springer’s first day back at work.
That Thursday morning, Springer said, she had just taken a break when a startling noise pierced through the music she was listening to on a radio headset.
She heard screaming and turned around to see Hilbun, “with a bandanna around his face, waving a gun back and forth coming down the middle of our bay,” Springer said.
“I was dead up against the wall,” she said, describing how she tried to hide, hoping he had not checked her route assignment for the day. Such information would help him track her easily in the large building.
“If he knew what route I went out on, he would have seen me right away. . . . I went under my mail case,” she told the grand jury. “He was calling my name.”
Brown asked Springer if she recognized the gunman’s voice.
“Yeah, I heard his voice . . . Mark Hilbun’s voice,” she said.
Brown told jurors the evidence shows he killed fellow postal worker Charles T. Barbagallo when he refused to tell Hilbun where Springer was working that morning.
Springer testified that she made it clear to Hilbun from the start that she was not interested in him.
“There were no romantic inclinations,” Springer said, adding that when Hilbun called her after the July 4 fair outing, she spurned his advances.