If the first day of the Rachael Mullenix murder trial was full of allegations against the defendant, the second day’s accusations were against her slain mother.
The trial of Mullenix on charges of conspiring with her boyfriend in 2006 to murder her mother, Barbara Mullenix, continued Thursday with testimony from Bruce Mullenix, Rachael’s father.
Bruce Mullenix, who was divorced from Barbara but let them both live in his Huntington Beach condo, told jurors his slain ex-wife made threats and acted abusive when she’d had too much to drink.
“When she was drunk she would say things like, ‘I’m going to go up to school and go to class and embarrass you,’” he said. “‘I’ll call up your friends and say things that humiliate and embarrass you.’ … You have to understand she was a completely different person when she was drunk.”
One of those threats, he said, was to get Rachael Mullenix’s 21-year-old boyfriend, Ian Allen, in trouble for having sex with a then-17-year-old.
“Barbara made threats to Rachael she was going to either try to charge Ian with having sex with a minor or get him in trouble because of the age difference,” he said.
That’s in contrast to what prosecutors said Wednesday in opening statements. Deputy Dist. Atty. Sonia Balleste said the killing was hatched by Rachael Mullenix, who became furious when her mother grounded her for staying past curfew at Allen’s home and said the two could no longer date. Balleste painted her as a scheming manipulator who got Allen to help her ferociously stab her mother to death and dump the body in Newport Bay.
Rachael Mullenix cried into a tissue throughout much of her father’s testimony, and he in turn choked up repeatedly as he tried to answer questions.
Rachael Mullenix’s defense lawyer, David R. Cohn, went on to ask if the threats ever turned into physical abuse: “Was there pushing shoving, grabbing, hair pulling, anything like that?”
“Yes,” he said. “It was never something, like, really major. Like slapping someone as hard as you can or punching or pushing them down — it was less than that.”
At the same time, Bruce Mullenix, who was away on a business trip when his ex-wife was killed, maintained over and over that his daughter was close to her mother and loved her.
“They had a very, very good relationship,” he said. “When Barbara was drunk and crazy and mean, then they didn’t. I didn’t have a good relationship with her either when she was like that. When Barbara wasn’t drinking, they were very, very close.”
But Balleste, apparently mindful that Bruce Mullenix had far worse things to say about his ex-wife than his daughter, pressed him on that emotional connection.
“It’s also true you continue to be extremely close to your daughter, correct?” she asked.
“Correct,” he replied.
“You wouldn’t want to see her in any trouble, it would be fair to say?” she continued.
At first overcome with emotion, Bruce Mullenix finally managed to choke out a “yes.”
Later, he denied his love for his daughter would cause him to lie.