By early 1972, 25-year-old Herbert Mullin was overridden with anxiety because time was running out. He was convinced that an earthquake would imminently cripple northern California and totally flatten his hometown of Felton. Mullin also believed he was being summoned to commit murder as the only way to stop the massive earthquake.
Over the course of 1972, Mullin, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, had been hearing voices telling him an earthquake was coming and that he must stop it by killing others, according to The Vintage News. In his mind, the American death toll in the Vietnam War was the only thing that had kept the earthquake at bay. But, with the war tapering off in late 1972, Mullin believed time was up and he needed to begin killing others to keep the earthquake from tearing Felton apart.
From October 1972 until February 1973, Mullin murdered 13 people, sewing chaos and panic along the way. Once he was finally caught and his story made headlines, Mullin earned the odd serial killer legacy as “The Earthquake Killer.”
Mullin commences his killing spree
On October 13, 1972, Mullin committed his first murder, when he picked up a homeless man who was hitchhiking. Mullin pulled over to the side of the road and beat the man to death with a baseball bat. Mullin later claimed that the victim was Jonah from the Bible, who had told him telepathically, “Kill me so that others will be saved,” according to E. Fuller Torrey’s book, The Insanity Offense. Less than two weeks later, Mullin picked up another hitchhiker, 24-year-old Mary Guilfoyle, a Cabrillo College student. Mullin stabbed her to death as he drove down the street, per the S.F. Sunday Examiner & Chronicle. He partially dissected her body, and threw the rest of her remains in the mountains.
Mullin had become so overcome with guilt that on November 2, he went to St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Los Gatos to pray for his victims and confess his sins. However, once again, Mullin heard voices and believed the priest, Father Henri Tomei, had volunteered to be his next sacrifice. So, Mullin stabbed the priest to death in the confessional, according to the East Bay Times.
Mullin tries to join the Marines but it leads to more murder
Completely at the end of his rope, Mullin tried to escape the chaos and carnage that has taken over his life by joining the Marines. However, when recruiters learned of his drug use, he was immediately rejected. The dismissal was too much for Mullin. Filled with rage, he was determined to kill Jim Gianera, his high school friend who had previously sold him marijuana. On January 25, 1973, Mullin killed Gianera and his wife with gunshots to the head before savagely stabbing their bodies. That same day, Mullin shot and killed Kathy Francis, a friend of Gianera, and her two young sons.
With eight people now counted among his victims, a few weeks later Mullin went to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and found four teenagers who were illegally camping. Posing as a park ranger, he told them to leave. When they refused, he shot all of them to death, The Pajaronian reported. Again, Mullin later claimed they had each sent him a message telepathically that they were permitting him to murder them. Mullin committed one final crime just three days later on February 13, 1973, when he drove past retired fishermonger Fred Perez. Mullin turned his car around and stopped, pulled out his rifle and killed Perez with a single shot, per All That’s Interesting. Mullin casually drove away, but was caught by police within minutes.
Mullin is sentenced for his crimes, but still blames others
Mullin was charged with 10 of the 13 murders he committed and pleaded guilty to all of them, ending the possibility of a trial. The only question left was whether or not he was sane and, therefore, culpable for his crimes, which would have an impact on his sentence. On August 19, 1973, Mullin was determined to be guilty in the first degree murders Gianera and Francis, because they were premeditated. On the other eight murders, he was convicted of second degree murder, because they were considered to be more impulsive, The New York Times reported at the time. He was sentenced to life in prison and is currently incarcerated at Mule Creek State Prison (pictured above) in Ione, California.
On March 18, 2021, Herbert Mullin was denied parole for the eleventh time by the California Board of Parole Hearings at a virtual hearing, CBS affiliate KPIX reported. “He lacks insight and shows no true remorse for these brutal murders,” said Santa Cruz County District Attorney Jeff Rosell. “To this day, Mr. Mullin continues to pose as high of a risk to the community as he did during his crime spree in 1972 and 1973 if he were released.” The parole board agreed with Rosell’s recommendations and extended Mullin’s sentence for another seven years, making him eligible for parole again in 2028, when he will be 80 years old.
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