Killer of mother gets 25 to life

A Huntington Beach woman who, with help from her boyfriend, killed her mother two years ago and dumped the body into Newport Harbor before running away with him, insisted she was innocent Friday as a judge sentenced her to a maximum of 25 years to life in prison.

Rachael Mullenix, 19, was convicted in July of taking part in her mother’s slaying.

Her mother, Barbara Mullenix, was found wrapped in a bloody blanket with a butter knife stuck in her eye and floating in Newport Harbor Sept. 13, 2006. She had been stabbed more than 50 times by at least two different knives, officials said.

“I’ll never take responsibility for it. Every day without her is a struggle. I can’t believe this is happening to me. Everyone was always against my mom; I was always there to protect her,” she told the judge. “How can you do that to your own mother? I couldn’t; there’s no way I could. She was my life. If I supposedly did this, my family would be the first to know.”

Mullenix’s father, Bruce Mullenix, continued to fight for his daughter, as he did while testifying in her trial.

“I know her better than anybody on this planet. I know in my heart she didn’t do this,” he said. “In this world, sometimes just because you’re convicted of something doesn’t mean you did it.”

Mullenix’s then-boyfriend, Ian Allen, 23, was convicted for his role in the killing last month. The pair fingered the other during their separate trials, each arguing that the other killed Barbara while they only helped clean up the aftermath.

Character was a central theme during Friday’s sentencing. Rachael Mullenix’s character, and that of her mother — who was divorced and whom defense attorneys portrayed as an abusive alcoholic — were brought up periodically during victim impact statements.

Before Judge David Thompson sentenced Mullenix, he pointed out that she did not appear to be remorseful.

She countered during her statement that jail, and before that a fear of getting hurt, trained her to not show emotions. But she did softly cry as her father defended her before Mullenix faced the judge.

“Her mother had problems. No one knows how bad it was other than Rachael and myself,” Bruce Mullenix said of his ex-wife. “I loved Barbara. I married her, I had a daughter with her, but yeah, she was that bad.”

No friends or family were there to speak on behalf of Barbara, so a victim’s advocate from the district attorney’s office did.

“Barbara had some challenging times in her life. Somewhere along the way she developed an alcohol problem ... but not once were her children ever taken from her. Not even an investigation into her parenting skills, yet she has been portrayed by her ex-husband and her daughter as some out-of-control drunken abuser,” Angela Tietzer said.

Tietzer continued: “Barbara Mullenix may have been far from perfect, but there is nothing that can be said about her faults that would remotely begin to justify this horrific crime.”

Thompson had rejected a motion by defense attorneys earlier in the afternoon for a new trial. Defense attorney David Cohn said many of prosecutor Sonia Balleste’s statements and the evidence she presented despite the court’s orders to not use them prejudiced the jury enough to warrant a new trial. Balleste addressed those concerns before Mullenix was sentenced.

“This is not about what was said or not said by me. This is about the evidence presented to a fair and impartial jury in our community,” she said. “They’ve spoken. That verdict, by those 12 people, is what convicted this defendant. Twenty-five-to-life is the appropriate sentence.”

Allen is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 14.

Editor’s note: Angela Tietzer, a victim’s advocate from the D.A.’s office, read the following statement during Rachael Mullenix’s sentencing. To see the full version, visit dailypilot.com.

Barbara Mullenix was murdered because it was her daughter’s wish — a daughter who put her own selfish and narcissistic wishes above all else, including her mother’s life.

Barbara Mullenix was a 56-year-old woman who had some challenges in her life. At the age of 18 she was the victim of a sexual assault that resulted in a pregnancy. Barbara carried her baby to term and put her up for adoption so she could have a good home. Barbara was married twice. She had a son, Alex Hagwood, from her first marriage and the defendant from her second marriage. Throughout her life she was a wife and mother. She cared for her children and her home. She loved movies. Her favorite was “Gone with the Wind.” She never gave up on pursuing the Hollywood dream.

Barbara had some challenging times in her life. Somewhere along the way she developed an alcohol problem. This resulted in her at times behaving erratically and irrationally. Not once were her children taken from her by the authorities. Not even an investigation in to her parenting skills, yet she has been portrayed by her ex-husband and her daughter as some out-of-control drunken abuser.

Yet the evidence presented showed a child who had the better things in life, including big birthday parties and the larger room in the house. A teenager that dictated where she wanted to live and with who, including being allowed to go to an alternative school once a week leaving her the rest of her free time to spend with her boyfriend — a boyfriend that she secured an overnight pass for and a signed permission slip. Her only job was working as a background actress with her mother. Does this really sound like abuse? Barbara Mullenix may have been far from perfect, but there is nothing that can be said about her faults that would remotely begin to justify this horrific crime.

More importantly her tragic death has left a shadow on her legacy. She was more than just a lady in the water with a butter knife in her eye. She was a mother. A betrayed mother. A mother who suffered the ultimate punishment for attempting to do what she was expected to do. You discipline your children because you love them and want them to learn important life lessons so they can be responsible, loving and productive adults. This is completely lost on this defendant. In 25 lifetimes Rachael Mullinex would not be able to begin to understand the enormous impact of her crime much less 25 years. One of the few comforts this community can take away today is the comfort that this defendant will never be a mother.

This community has suffered. The disturbing conduct of this defendant has left parents with a child colder than the waters of Newport Bay. The suffering of the families involved, the Allens and the Mullinex families, are evident and inconsolable. They have lost the dreams they once had for their children. Instead of college graduations, weddings and grandchildren they now look forward to prison visits, mail and an occasional phone call for a lifetime.

What would Barbara Mullenix say if she could? She would want to know why her daughter does not have a single injury in response to her cries for help. Maybe Barbara would want to know how Rachael could have allowed her not only to be killed in the manner in which she was, but to be disposed of as a piece of garbage — her life reduced to a few bags of trash and a cardboard box as a coffin. ... What kind of black heart a human being has to have to do what Rachael Mullenex even admits to doing much less what she actually did? This is precisely what makes this defendant so dangerous. Not only, as the evidence proved, is she a master manipulator, but she is also without a conscience. Such individuals should never be allowed back into society.

A mother ... would do whatever it took to protect her children. Barbara Mullenex ... would have stood in line to take a butter knife through the eye to save her children. Sorry to say, this child is not worth it. We can only hope that this image of her mutilated mother haunts her for the rest of her days.


JOSEPH SERNA may be reached at (714) 966-4619 or at joseph.serna@latimes.com.

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