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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Suspect hailed as a hero on the Web

Donna Gordon Blankinship Associated Press

SEATTLE – Notes of congratulation to Michael Mullen popped up on Web logs as soon as news accounts reported that he had turned himself in, claiming to be the vigilante killer of two convicted child rapists shot in Bellingham.

Mullen, 35, was charged Thursday in Whatcom County Superior Court with two counts of aggravated first-degree murder, the county prosecutor’s office said. Aggravated murder in Washington is punishable by either death or life in prison without parole. Deputy Prosecutor Mac Setter said his office would decide by Mullen’s Sept. 16 arraignment whether it would seek the death penalty.

Comments on the Web included a call for leniency for Mullen, who tried unsuccessfully to plead guilty during his initial court hearing on Tuesday. But most Web log entries were more dramatic, ranging from “give him a medal and key to the city” to “kill all level 3 offenders and save us some headaches.”

Mullen has been held on $1 million bail in the Whatcom County Jail since turning himself in to police on Monday and saying he was responsible for the Aug. 26 deaths of Victor Vazquez, 68, and Hank Eisses, 49, each shot once in the head.

In court documents, prosecutors said Mullen posed as an off-duty FBI agent when he arrived at the home of Vazquez and Eisses – an address he found online through the Whatcom County sex offender notification system – and sat on their front lawn, drinking beer with them and discussing their criminal background. He told the men he was there to warn them there was a “hit list” out for level 3 sex offenders, the type considered most likely to reoffend.

Mullen told police he had been a victim of sexual abuse himself, although he hadn’t reported it at the time to his family or authorities, Setter said in court papers.

Mullen offered police a variety of motives for the killings: protecting his children, his own child abuse, a desire to give his life value by protecting the community and a recent Idaho case that focused attention on sex offenders, the documents said.

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 supervision.

Eisses, sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison in 1997 for raping a 13-year-old boy, was released from supervision about two years ago.

About a week before Mullen called 911 to turn himself in, a man named Mullen took responsibility for the killings in his own Web journal on AOL. The journal entry has been deleted, but a copy of the statement was posted on a Web log called “The Dark Side.”

Bellingham police Lt. Craige Ambrose said he believes the person who posted the Web confession is the same person held in the Whatcom County Jail and the same man who confessed via two letters sent to various news media.

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