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I Dunnit

James Mullins is talking for the first time publicly about why he confessed — falsely — to killing a 19-year-old woman in Tempe a year ago.

His case made headlines for days this summer after Phoenix police revealed a link between the so-called Baseline Killer and the September 2005 shooting murder of Georgia Thompson. The Phoenix cops also said they had no evidence to connect Mullins to any of the Baseline cases.

With that announcement, Georgia became the first known murder victim of the serial predator, whose acts of seemingly random violence (including eight murders) over the past year or so have terrorized the Valley.

Georgia was shot to death from close range in a parking lot at her apartment complex on Mill Avenue, near U.S. 60.

On August 3, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office finally dropped a second-degree murder count against Mullins, as prosecutors and police ate crow in what had become a nightmare of a case.

In a phone interview from the Western Kentucky Correctional Complex, Mullins tells New Times that he devised his strange scam because he was facing more than 25 years in prison on enhanced theft and burglary charges when he first heard about Georgia's murder.

In a deep Kentucky twang, the 33-year-old inmate says he decided to "take my chances" on confessing to killing the Idaho native, who was working as a stripper at Scottsdale's Skin Cabaret when she died.

"I came up with this elaborate story, though I figured they would see right through it," he says, speaking of Tempe police detectives and county prosecutors who fell hard for his claim until the unexpected turn of events involving the Baseline Killer.

"I didn't know anything about the Baseline Killer until my lawyer told me [in July] that the cops had more information [about the Georgia Thompson case]," Mullins says. "That's when I knew it was over."

By "it," Mullins of course is referring to confessing to a murder he didn't commit almost 2,000 miles from his home in Paducah, Kentucky.

Actually, Mullins says Oklahoma City was the farthest west he had ever been before authorities flew him here from Kentucky last April to face the murder charge.

"I didn't even know Tempe was connected to Phoenix, or what Maricopa County was," he says.

Mullins recanted his confession after Phoenix police on the trail of the Baseline Killer confronted him about myriad inconsistencies in his story.

County Attorney Andrew Thomas said of Mullins at an August 3 press conference, "He is a Kentucky career criminal who appears to have made up a story and sent us on a wild-goose chase."

True, but that's only part of this wild-goose chase of a yarn.

It remains to be seen if the recent arrest of ex-convict Mark Goudeau on suspicion of raping two south Phoenix women — a case police say they also can link forensically to the Baseline Killer — will lead to a resolution of Georgia Thompson's tragic case.

But that's another story.

As for James Mullins, few would argue that he's not a devious loser and a big fat liar.

Even his mother, Bonnie Patterson, who loves her son dearly, says of the false confession, "It wouldn't be the first time he's done something stupid."

But other than inventing a very tall tale, Mullins has nothing in common with John Karr, the pedophiliac teacher who sucked Boulder, Colorado, law enforcement (and the media) for a time into believing he'd sexually assaulted and killed little JonBenet Ramsey a decade ago.

And Mullins didn't just make something up after hours of grueling police interrogation. An infamous local example of that would be the Tucson Four, who separately were browbeaten into confessions by sheriff's deputies after the August 1991 murders of nine people at a Buddhist monastery 20 miles west of Phoenix. (Two Phoenix men later were convicted of committing the murders, and are serving life sentences.)

If he's to be believed (always a question), James Mullins "confessed" to killing Georgia for secondary gain. Follow his "illogical logic," as one Tempe cop put it recently:

Mullins says he figured to face a maximum of about 24 years in prison in Arizona if a jury convicted him of killing the young woman. And even that wasn't a given, considering no physical evidence against him, including DNA, had been found at the crime scene.

Because, well, he hadn't been there.

So, Mullins says he decided to take a jailbird's chance that Kentucky authorities would drop the pending cases against him after shipping him to Arizona to face the murder charge.

Eric Jackson, a police sergeant in Mullins' hometown of Paducah, Kentucky, suggests that "maybe in his mind he thought, 'After I cop to this homicide, I'll go to Arizona, prove I didn't do it, and walk. Then I'll run for the border before Kentucky gets their hands back on me.'"

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin