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

Detective Susan Schoville was assigned as lead investigator. A veteran of more than 20 years on the Tempe force, Schoville had been working homicides for about five years and, according to her supervisors, she had solved every last one of them.

But the trail to Georgia's killer was cold.

Then, like manna dropping from heaven, Curtis Maxie called Crime Stoppers with some serious dish on fellow con James Mullins.

Craig LaRotonda/Revelation Studios
Georgia Thompson, about a year before her September 2005 murder.
Georgia Thompson, about a year before her September 2005 murder.

Curtis Maxie is alone in an interview room at the Paducah Police Department before the arrival of Tempe detectives on December 31 of last year.

Maxie is a thick black man in an orange jail-issue jumpsuit. His legs are shackled, though he's not handcuffed. He has spent about half of his 34 years behind bars.

Soon after his interview begins, Maxie blurts, "I didn't know if it was true or not, what happened down there. He say he murdered somebody."

"Who?" Schoville asks.

"James Mullins. . . . We was there 'round about September. That's why I was surprised to find out because I was down there with him."

Maxie dives into a convoluted story about driving to Arizona with Mullins in a white Cadillac during early September to buy marijuana.

He says they had stayed in the desert with "somebody [Mullins] knew" for about five days, during which time they'd partied constantly.

Maxie claims he hadn't heard about the murder in question until Mullins copped to it in jail.

"If it happened, I want to know about it cuz someone could have seen us together," he says, trying to explain his rationale for contacting Crime Stoppers.

Maxie says Mullins told him, "'You know what we did in Arizona? I murdered this broad down there.'"

"What did he say regarding that particular 'broad'?" Schoville asks him.

"He just said he killed a broad. He didn't go into the details. I [knew] she was white, that's all I knew."

Maxie soon adds that the victim apparently had been a stripper, and the murder happened in "a city that start with a T."

"Tempe?" the detective asks.

"Yeah," Maxie replies. "I don't know whether somebody tried to rob him or what."

Listening in from another room is Paducah police Sergeant Eric Jackson, and alarms already are ringing loudly in his head.

"For Maxie to say they ran together was a red flag," he tells New Times. "During several years of working narcotics here, I've never known those two to ever come on our screen. I never had an informant say, 'You got two big runners, Mullins and Maxie.'"

Maxie says he and Mullins had gone to a Tempe strip club on their last night in Arizona, along with "seven or eight" Latinos.

He says he can't recall the name of the club.

At first, Maxie says Mullins had left during the final evening "with a broad," possibly of Puerto Rican descent, and "with the other guys."

He says Mullins later returned to pick him up, and the pair immediately left for Kentucky.

"And you're saying the whole time you're driving back, he's not saying anything about this [murder]?" Schoville asks.

"He did a lot of dope on the way back," is Maxie's answer.

He then recalls Mullins had told him that "they" tried to rob him, meaning the Latino dopers.

"It's a murder for real?"

"It's New Year's Eve," Detective Luckow replies. "You think two cops from Arizona would come out here on New Year's Eve if it wasn't?"

"I got a dead girl on my hands," Schoville tells the inmate. "Did he say how he killed her?"

Maxie doesn't answer. He's not saying much, even when he's talking.

Maxie does tell the cops about a pending plea offer in his own criminal case, which calls for him to serve 10 years. He says he's not going to take it.

Maxie then volunteers something:

"I think he said he shot her."

Expanding his yarn, Maxie says he had stayed at the strip club almost until closing, 2 a.m., and that he had spent $1,000 on dances in the VIP room.

Schoville pushes Maxie to provide names of any of the Hispanic men they had been with.

Sounding anything but convincing, he dredges up the name "Carlos." "Right now, you're not lying very well," the detective tells him.

Detective Luckow throws in a question that, in hindsight, was prescient.

"Did Mullins ask you to call?"

"No, he don't even fuckin' know," Maxie replies, very quickly. "I called to see, did it happen?"

Schoville pulls out a sheet of business cards and asks Maxie if he recognizes any of them. Maxie points to a card as maybe being familiar.

"The one that says Skin?" she asks him.

"Might have been," he shrugs, "I don't know."

That's good news for the detectives.

Schoville asks him if the names Salvador or Santana ring a bell.

"Something like that," Maxie replies.

"He didn't say it was Carlos or Santana or whatever?" the detective asks, perhaps flashing on the song "Black Magic Woman."

"I don't know," says Maxie.

His account keeps changing: Maxie now says Mullins had returned to the club with just two other men, not the seven or eight with whom he'd left.

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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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