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Police say Duncan case may have motivated slayings

Wed., Sept. 7, 2005

BELLINGHAM – A man arrested in the shooting deaths of two convicted child rapists tried to plead guilty Tuesday before he had even been formally charged.

Police said Michael Anthony Mullen might have targeted the men in reaction to a notorious case in Idaho in mid-May in which authorities allege three people were killed so two children could be abducted for sex. One of those children also was slain.

“Can I have a speedy trial?” Mullen asked Whatcom County Superior Court Commissioner David Thorn, via closed circuit television from jail, during a preliminary hearing. “I would like to plead guilty.”

Deputy Prosecutor Mac Setter said Mullen would be formally charged today with two counts of first-degree murder.

Thorn told Mullen to talk to his court-appointed lawyer to ensure he got a speedy trial. The commissioner set bail at $1 million and scheduled Mullen’s arraignment – when a formal plea may be entered – for Sept. 16.

Police said Mullen, 35, called them on Monday to turn himself in and later confessed to killing Hank Eisses, 49, and Victor Vazquez, 68, in their home on Aug. 27.

The hearing revealed that Mullen may have had help on the day the two men died. Setter said an unidentified woman whom he described as a witness had driven Mullen to and from the scene and had lost the gun.

Mullen may have been motivated by the case of Joseph Edward Duncan, a convicted sex offender who is accused of killings and child abductions in Idaho, police said.

“One possible reason was the case in Idaho,” Bellingham Police Lt. Craige Ambrose told the Associated Press. Ambrose wouldn’t elaborate, and Setter refused to discuss possible motives.

Police said they believe Mullen’s claim that he killed the Bellingham sex offenders because he knew details only the killer would know: the caliber of the weapon used, and that the victims were each shot once in the head.

“Mullen also said that he had planned the murders for some time and that on July 13, 2005, he had accessed the Whatcom County sheriff’s sex offender Web site, and from that selected at least one of the two victims,” according to a police statement.

As is typical in Washington, the sheriff’s Web site lists the residences of sex offenders who are required to register with local authorities.

According to police, Mullen said he mailed a letter about the Bellingham killings to several news outlets last week. The Bellingham Herald, the daily newspaper in this college and mill town of about 71,000, reported Thursday that the letter threatened other sexual predators.

Eisses, 49, and Vazquez, 68, were both classified as Level 3 sex offenders, the type considered most likely to reoffend.

Their bodies were found by a roommate, also a sex offender, who said a man wearing a blue jumpsuit and a cap that said “FBI” came to the house, told them he was an FBI agent and said he wanted to discuss their status as sex offenders.

The supposed federal agent told them that one of them was on a “hit list,” police said.

The roommate said he left while the FBI impostor was still there and he found the bodies when he returned about four hours later.

Vazquez was convicted in 1991 of molesting several relatives, according to court documents. He was released from prison about two years ago and remained under state Department of Corrections supervision.

“I worry that the community may feel as if my father’s murderer is a social vigilante who is justified in his actions because of the mistakes my father made 17 years ago,” Eve Vazquez of Spokane, one of her father’s victims, said in a statement her family passed out at the hearing.

“If anyone had the right to be angry with my father, it was me, his primary victim,” she said, adding she reconciled with her father three years ago.

Eisses was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison in 1997 for raping a 13-year-old boy. He was released from supervision about two years ago, said Kit Bail, Corrections Department field supervisor for the county.

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