Like many teenage girls, Huntington Beach resident Rachael Mullenix told her mother she hated her and didn’t want to live with her anymore, according to prosecutors. But then, prosecutors said, Mullenix and her 21-year-old boyfriend made sure of it — with several knives.
The prosecution made opening arguments and called a few witnesses Wednesday in the murder and conspiracy trial of Mullenix, who turned away as Deputy Dist. Atty. Sonia Balleste showed jurors her mother a picture of Barbara Mullenix’s slashed body as it appeared when it washed up at the Newport Harbor Yacht Club on Sept. 13, 2006.
In her opening argument at the Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana, Balleste painted Mullenix as a master manipulator who had gotten her way her entire life, and who went into a rage when her mother finally stood up to her. The triggering moment, she said, was when Barbara Mullenix decided to ground her and prevent her from seeing her boyfriend, Ian Allen, after she broke curfew.
“It’s unacceptable to this defendant,” Balleste said. “Not just the kind of unacceptable that a teenager who wants their way would feel. This defendant is outraged. Nobody says no to Rachael Mullenix. Nobody. Not even her mother. And she’s not going to stand for it.”
Mullenix shrank away when Balleste pointed her out to the jury, but throughout most of the proceedings sat impassively with her eyes down. She appeared to be sobbing quietly at one point as jurors grimaced at the sight of Barbara Mullenix’s corpse.
David R. Cohn, Mullenix’s lawyer, told the judge he would hold off on an opening argument until it was time to present his case.
Testimony began with Newport Beach police officers describing their discovery of the body at the yacht club, covered in stab and slash wounds, as well as bags full of items linked to the victim in a nearby Dumpster. Prosecution and defense sparred over forensic evidence presented that afternoon by Orange County Sheriff’s crime lab scientist Mary Hong that showed Rachael Mullenix’s DNA on a sponge and pillow slips found in one of those bags, as well as a gun carried by Allen when the pair were arrested.
Cohn focused on where the DNA wasn’t: the knife.
“There was no match or contribution on the knife in the victim by Miss Rachael Mullenix, right?”
Correct, Hong replied.
But neither was anyone else’s DNA, except that of the victim, Balleste said.
“Would you be surprised if traces of the victim’s blood were in the handle, not visible to the naked eye?” she asked
“I would not be surprised,” Hong said.
Barbara Mullenix’s body was initially unidentified, but police tracked down her name by the serial numbers on her breast implants, authorities said at the time. The quick response by coastal authorities also caused the death of well-known Newport Beach mascot Rupert the Swan.
While Allen is also scheduled for trial after Mullenix’s finishes, Balleste called Mullenix the mastermind of a conspiracy to murder her mother in her Huntington Beach apartment on Sept 12, 2006.
“She sent him a text message saying, ‘We have only 2 options. Run, or Tuesday.’” Balleste said. “‘Or the last option, you come over tonight and apologize to my mom. If you want to be with me you decide if you want to be with me.’ She can’t even speak of what she’s going to do on Tuesday.”
The killing was intentionally vicious, Balleste said. Barbara Mullenix was still alive even after a kitchen knife was stuck into her eye, she said.
“The evidence will show this killing is a torturous death,” she said. “The evidence will show these people conspired to and executed a death so painful, so brutal that only an individual with extreme rage and a black heart full of hate could have done it.”
After using Allen to help her kill her mother and dump the body, Mullenix ran off with him to meet his relatives in Tampa, Fla., Balleste said. But when the duo were caught in Louisiana, she turned on the man she loved to save herself, she said.
“She wastes no time in telling police she hates him, he’s a kidnapper and he should spend the rest of his life in prison,” she said. “Ain’t love grand. She’s a user. For this defendant, people are disposable, absolutely disposable.”
If convicted, Mullenix faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison.