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

In retrospect, Woods says, he probably didn't express himself as openly about the case's glaring shortcomings as he would have in a normal police/prosecutor relationship.

"I didn't think it was appropriate for me to come barreling in there and torpedo their case, even though I was very much aware of the problems," he says. "But I did believe that if Mullins was the right guy, his story that he shot her in self-defense — in the back of the head — was going to be a tough sell for him."

Woods says he knows all about the role that the Maury Povich segment certainly played in his case.

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

"James Mullins does fit the profile of an average Maury viewer," he says, chuckling.

After Georgia's murder, Tempe police routinely had entered data from the crime scene into a law-enforcement-only computer that can compare items found at different homicides. Phoenix police also had been submitting data from the Baseline Killer cases into the system.

The way things work in real life bears only the slightest resemblance to the instantaneous solutions that occur each week on television's CSI franchise. But the ability of law enforcement to piece things together scientifically definitely has evolved.

In early July, Phoenix police say they linked a key piece of Baseline Killer evidence to the crime scene in Tempe.

New Times is not revealing the exact details to maintain the integrity of that ongoing investigation, but on July 12, the Arizona Republic quoted Phoenix police commander (now assistant chief) Bill Louis as calling that evidence "irrefutable."

Nothing they knew of, the Phoenix cops said, tied James Mullins to any of the Baseline cases.

That week, Mullins recanted his confession, though he never did tell authorities what he now is saying is the real reason he had engaged in the exercise.

At the end of July, a team of five Tempe cops, including Sue Schoville, returned one last time to Paducah in a last-ditch effort to salvage their case.

But county prosecutors finally had seen enough, and Grant Woods filed a motion on August 3 to dismiss the case against Mullins.

"The County Attorney's Office did the right thing by dismissing," Woods says, trying to distance his own four-month involvement in the case as much as possible. "But I really believe that, even with all the real problems in the case up to that time, it could have said, 'Screw this guy, let's convict him on his own statements.' And we could have."

Now that's food for thought.

In the aftermath of a case that had gone south in a very public way, the Tempe cops retrenched and started to analyze what had gone wrong (it's uncertain if the County Attorney's Office engaged in similar introspection).

"I think if you look back, for us this was an anomaly, uncharted waters," says Sergeant Mike Hill. "Going into this, would you ever really think of [a false confession]?"

Commander Kim Shroyer adds, "Somebody killed this girl. If we had just jumped to the conclusion on the other side — 'That's B.S., this guy didn't do it' — we'd have been remiss as well."

Sergeant Dan Masters says of Detective Schoville, "This is certainly going to take a toll on her, personally and professionally. But that tells you what kind of person she is. She puts her heart and soul into it."

Authorities last month returned James Mullins to Kentucky, where he is serving the remainder of a prison sentence for bail-jumping. Curtis Maxie also is in prison — at a different facility. He was sentenced recently to 10 years.

Down the road, Mullins is also going to face those burglary and theft charges that he temporarily avoided during his memorable foray into Maricopa County's criminal-justice system.

"I'm going to be here for quite a while," Mullins says drolly of his residence behind bars. "I feel bad, and I do apologize for what I put on the family of that girl and on my own family. And, hey, man. I hope they finally catch that Baseline Killer."

Maybe they have, maybe they haven't.

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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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