I Dunnit

Here's how a Kentucky inmate conned Tempe cops and the County Attorney's Office into believing he'd killed a stripper, who really was a victim of the Baseline Killer

The tip thrilled Tempe detective Schoville, who had watched the trail in the Georgia Thompson murder case grow cold soon after the young woman's murder.

Schoville had been the case agent since shortly after a resident of the Saddle Club Apartments came upon Georgia's lifeless body in the complex's north parking lot.

Georgia's red Grand Prix was parked near her body. She still had its keys clutched in her left hand.

Dr. Steven Pitt is highly critical of the Tempe police interviews.
Paul Rubin
Dr. Steven Pitt is highly critical of the Tempe police interviews.
County Attorney Andy Thomas' office wound up with egg on its face in the Mullins case.
County Attorney Andy Thomas' office wound up with egg on its face in the Mullins case.

The postmortem revealed that Georgia's killer had shot her once in the back of the head — not into her forehead as the creepy Povich show reenactment had suggested.

Georgia's purse and cell phone were missing.

According to an assistant medical examiner, she had not been sexually assaulted and had died instantly.

One spent bullet shell casing lay on the asphalt near the body.

The victim was wearing an orange tee shirt with the words BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME silk-screened onto it.

Detective Schoville had worked the case hard, but none of the leads amounted to much. The investigation of Tempe's third homicide of 2005 was at a standstill when Curtis Maxie called Crime Stoppers almost four months after the murder.

Sue Schoville and another Tempe detective, Trent Luckow, flew to Kentucky on December 30. The following day, New Year's Eve, they met with Maxie at the Paducah Police Department for about six hours.

In one of his varying accounts, Maxie said he and Mullins had driven 1,500 miles to Arizona in early September to try to work a $12,000 marijuana deal.

They had stayed in the Phoenix area for days with their Latino dope connections, but the expected transaction never happened.

Maxie told Schoville that on their last night in Arizona, he, Mullins and several local dopers had gone to a strip club. Mullins and a few of the guys left the club for a while at some point, and when Maxie later had stepped outside to see what was up, Mullins abruptly told him it was time to leave town.

Maxie said they had driven straight back to Paducah, allegedly not discussing anything that may or may not have transpired to make Mullins so antsy. Until their happenstance meeting inside the county jail a few days earlier, Maxie swore he hadn't spoken to Mullins since September.

It was there, inside cellblock two, Maxie said, that Mullins had told him for the first time about killing a girl in Arizona during their time there.

"Do you know the name of Georgia?" Schoville asked him.

"Sounds familiar," Maxie replied. "He [Mullins] might have said that. . . . I'm pretty much positive, if I'm not mistaken."

As a result of Maxie's "cooperation," a Paducah police officer persuaded a judge later on December 31 to reduce Maxie's bond and to dismiss a 200-day contempt-of-court charge he was serving.

Maxie was released from jail on January 4.

But his freedom lasted only a week before an irate prosecutor who had been kept out of the loop talked the judge into revoking Maxie's bail for continuing to fail to register as a sex offender.

When it was Mullins' turn to chat with the cops — on January 2 and 4 — he did indeed "confess" to killing Georgia Thompson.

But the holes in his accounts were gaping enough to drive a fleet of semis through — side by side.

As an example, Mullins first told Detective Schoville that he had agreed to pay a girl named Georgia $200 for sex at a motel a few blocks from an unnamed strip club. He said Georgia had pulled a gun on him as they were walking to the motel and demanded thousands of dollars he supposedly had on him for the unconsummated dope deal.

Mullins said he had grabbed the weapon, and then he shot the girl in the face — in self-defense. He said he had tossed the gun into a Dumpster, before running around looking for his cohort, Maxie. He claimed he had found Maxie nearby in a car engaging in a sexual act with another stripper.

Mullins had urged Maxie to quickly say his goodbyes, after which the pair immediately split from Arizona.

That couldn't have been close to the truth.

For starters, Skin Cabaret (where Georgia had been working for a few months) is on Scottsdale Road, almost six miles from the murder site, the Saddle Club Apartments.

The reason for Mullins' mistake easily could have been found in a tape of the Maury Povich episode, which never had specified where Georgia had been killed.

Schoville's supervisors (she was on vacation and unavailable for comment for this story) describe her as normally the best interviewer in the six-person homicide unit. But in this instance, she wasn't about to let the facts get in the way of a "good" confession.

Instead, she let her suspect know exactly what she needed to hear, over and over. She even sketched little maps for him of the area near the crime scene, hoping to "jog" his faulty memory.

"It's always a concern when it's law enforcement that's making the confession," says veteran forensic psychiatrist Dr. Steven Pitt, tongue only slightly in cheek.

Tempe Sergeant Mike Hill says Schoville knew about the Povich show before she first went to Kentucky, though he's not sure she had seen it by then. But Sergeant Jackson of the Paducah Police Department tells New Times that Schoville asked him soon after arriving in Kentucky if the Maury show had aired inside the local jail.

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Black Widow
Black Widow

James Mullins is a good man who made a silly stupid mistake. His judgement was clouded by the stress of facing 25 years plus in prison. It made him make a compulsive decision that was not a bright idea although to him it seemed like the lesser of two evils. James knows that he was on the side of error and is truly and sincerly sympathic to Georgia's family and apologizes for his lack of thought and for giving the family false hope that her killer was found. James has honestly expressed his apologies to the family and the public servents that were involved.

brandon gomez
brandon gomez

they should of kept chuck.when he had that tempe street beat show on channel 11,it was always interesting and edicational.it taught me a lot watching him.

it's BULLSHIT how they fired him,he was a good cop.

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