Fear Factor

Two serial murderers loom among us. Inside the case of the Baseline Killer's first Phoenix victim

The detective returns to Cactus Preschool the next morning.

Already, the school's students and teachers have created pieces of art that include handmade drawings, photo collages of Tina and written remembrances.

"In Loving Memory of Tina Washington," one collage says. "You touched so many hearts. We will always hold you in our hearts. You will be missed."

The scene of Tina Washington's murder
Paul Rubin
The scene of Tina Washington's murder
Composite drawing of the Baseline Killer
Composite drawing of the Baseline Killer

It is signed, "Your family at Cactus."

Femenia walks next door to the Circle K, where the guy on duty gladly hands over videotapes from the day and night of Tina Washington's murder.

He checks out the covered bus stop from which Tina likely had been abducted at gunpoint, and then enters the Shell food mart at the southeast corner.

It is just a few minutes' walk from the store to behind the warehouse, and the detective says that just maybe the killer stopped inside before, during or after he murdered Tina.

But Femenia gets unexpected resistance at the Shell store to his request for its videotapes.

"I can't give you anything without my district manager's permission," an assistant manager there tells the cop. "I can't help you, and I don't want to give you my name. If there's a murderer around here, I ain't trying to get killed."

Coldly, Femenia tells the manager that he will shut down the bustling business as a potential crime scene until the district manager sorts it all out.

"That'll take, what, a few hours or half a day?" the detective says, pulling out his cell phone as if to call for backup. "I'm not trying to be a tough guy or make a scene. But if you witnessed something or your tape shows something, you have an obligation to come forward and help us out."

The manager turns over the tapes, which, unfortunately, reveal nothing that would constitute evidence.

As Femenia walks back to the preschool, he vents about trying to break cases where the gun is not smoking and the bad guy has not rushed over to headquarters to confess.

"A good person gets killed, almost spitting distance from here, and that son of a bitch won't lift a finger to help," he says. "This is why homicides aren't solved sometimes."

James and Mike Emch — the owners of Cactus Preschool — pay for Tina Washington's memorial service and funeral on Christmas Eve at the Resthaven Park Mortuary, a few blocks east of the school (and the murder site) on Southern Avenue.

Red Washington speaks eloquently at the service, calling Tina "an angel who happened to be my mom and who is living with God now."

The young man has purchased 40 doves, which he and Tina's other loved ones release at the end of the proceedings.

"Thirty-nine are for her age and the last one is for her homecoming with God," Red says.

Detective Femenia inevitably moves on to other, "fresher" murder cases in the weeks and months that follow Tina Washington's murder.

But Femenia stays in touch with Red Washington, who essentially has been orphaned (he has no relationship with his father) and has moved in with his Aunt Teresa.

The cop has come to admire the young man.

A few weeks into the new year, Femenia takes some time to review his list of unsolved homicide cases.

Tina Washington's name stops him short.

It is about a month since the teacher's slaying, and the detective is discouraged by the lack of leads.

Again, Femenia engages in that wondering-aloud thing of his, tossing out a rat-a-tat-tat string of questions:

Had the killer planned to rape Tina, but she refused to give in? What was their precise route to the rear of the warehouse? Did he know the neighborhood, or was he winging it? Where did the guy go after Pete caught him red-handed? What am I missing?

Shortly after his self-critical review, Femenia learns of the solid evidence connecting the Tina Washington murder and that of the Baseline Killer's other alleged victims.

Phoenix police are keeping the links to themselves.

But in a twist that sounds almost fictional, the connection between the Baseline Killer and one of his alleged victims — Georgia Thompson, the September 8, 2005, shooting victim in Tempe — may yet serve to save the hide of an innocent man (innocent at least of this murder).

After a series of events that have yet to be revealed publicly, James Mullins confessed to Tempe police last January that he had shot the 19-year-old to death after meeting her at a Scottsdale strip club, where she worked.

He told those detectives that he had killed Thompson in self-defense after she had pulled a gun on him.

Mullins' confession came at a Kentucky jail, where he was being held on unrelated burglary charges. During it, Mullins at first suggested he had been with two other men on the night of the murder — a friend from Kentucky and a new acquaintance whose name he did not know.

Mullins was extradited to await trial on a second-degree murder charge after a Maricopa County grand jury indicted him.

Curiously, County Attorney Andrew Thomas appointed former state attorney general Grant Woods as a special prosecutor (apparently working for free) in the Thompson case.

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Alisha Coleman
Alisha Coleman

hi tina was a wonderful women. my fiance kenneth washington the third misses her alot she will always be in our hearts. rest in paradise mother in law. to his uncle and his bother call me at 602 507 1756


this was my niece....a wonderful person who did not deserve to leave this world in the manner she did. i too share the "PAIN AND ANIMOSITY " Although it's been five years there is not a day that I don't think of her. We recently had to bury Tina's Grandmother and now the family has to grieve again.I'm not one who wishes to seek revenge on any individual,but as my nephew stated...I sincerely wish whoever is responsible for this crime gets "ALL" they deserve and more Albert Jackson The uncle of Tina Marie Washington

Ricky Cunningham
Ricky Cunningham

I was reading this article about my mom being killed on her way home and I wanted to say that things are as they said. It was one of the most painful things in life to have to lay your own mother to rest on Christmas eve let alone at all! I felt so much anger towards the person that did this to her and I still do. There were a few things in your story that were wrong however. My brother got his nickname from my aunt not his friends. Also my brothers are not named Kenny! Their name is Kenneth Washington the third and the fourth after their father. It may not mean much to you but it is important to my family. I want everyone out there to know that while my mom was a good woman she also said that when people wrong you you have to stand up for yourself. I plan on making sure the person that did this to her gets everything that is coming to them. If you know anything about this murder send me a message at biggdaddy202003@yahoo.com and I will make sure you are heard. Thank you all for your love and support and to the killer watch out because here I come!!!!!!!


to my fiance's brother let god deal with it. but i hear you. hope all is well.

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