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We human beings, through the history of the world, have prevented our continent from cataclysms by murder. In other words, a minor natural disaster avoids a major natural disaster.

Herbert William Mullin was an American schizophrenic serial-turned-spree killer, mass murderer, and family annihilator active in the early 1970s.


Mullin was born in Salinas, California on April 18, 1947, but moved to a farming community outside San Francisco when he was five. His father, Martin William "Bill" Mullin, was a World War II hero who worked as a furniture salesman, taught him how to use a gun and told him war stories. He was strict, though not abusive. The family later moved to Felton in Santa Cruz County, where Herbert attended high school. He was popular, had several friends, a girlfriend and played varsity football. He was also (ironically) voted as "Most Likely To Succeed". After graduating in 1965, he went to college and studied engineering and considered following in his father's footsteps by joining the military. The turning point of his otherwise-normal life came around this time when his best friend, Dean Richardson, was killed in a car accident. His behavior changed entirely and he started building shrines dedicated to him, spending several hours at a time alone at them and became obsessed with the concept of reincarnation. He later came to believe that his friend's demise had been part of some grand cosmic plan. He changed his college major from Engineering to Philosophy and took up independent studies of Eastern religions.

In 1968, Mullin broke up with his girlfriend after voicing his suspicions that he was gay. The next year, he allowed his family to commit him to the Mendocino State Hospital, but he left shortly afterward. He spent the following years drifting in California working small-time jobs and spending short periods of time in various mental institutions. He did a brief stint as a boxer but had to be forcibly removed from the ring when he wouldn't stop beating his opponent. He practiced different kinds of alternative lifestyle activities such as yoga, meditation, and macrobiotic diets, attempted to join a priesthood, believed in the legalization of LSD and marijuana, and used both drugs as well as amphetamine. However, he was also vocally ultraconservative; in court, he said that he was bi-everything: bisexual, bipolitical, bicultural, bispiritual. He also falsely claimed to be biracial. He was evicted from one of his apartments for pounding the floor and shouting at people he imagined were there. On January 15, 1973, Mullin tried to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps. Though he passed the physical and psychiatric exams, he was rejected when his pretty extensive record of arrests and bizarre behavior was discovered. He believed this to be another part of a big conspiracy against him and later claimed that he never would have become a serial killer if he had been accepted. In November the previous year, he had also applied for the Coast Guard but failed the psychiatric exam.

Killings, Arrest, and Incarceration[]

Over time, Mullin began suffering from schizophrenic delusions, hearing voices (supposedly of his father) that told him to kill and even harm himself by burning his body with cigarettes. In October 1972, he finally snapped and bludgeoned a hitchhiking homeless man, Lawrence White, to death with a baseball bat. Less than two weeks later, he picked up a hitchhiking woman, Mary Guilfoyle, killed her inside the car, dumped her body in the woods by the roadside, dissected her, hanged her intestines in tree branches and examined them for "pollution". Her remains weren't found for several months, and when they were discovered, her murder was initially believed to be the work of Edmund Kemper, another serial killer who was active in Santa Cruz at the same time. Four days after killing Guilfoyle, on All Souls' Day, Mullin went to the St. Mary's Catholic Church and made a confession to a priest, Father Henry Tomei. Thinking he offered himself as a sacrifice, Mullin stabbed him to death and fled the scene. After being rejected by the USMC and quitting taking drugs, his delusions became worse and he decided to kill Jim Gianera, whom he knew from high school and used to buy marijuana from; he felt that, because he had sold him drugs that had twisted his mind, he was to blame for how troubled his life was. On January 25, 1973, he went to the last address he knew Gianera had lived, a cabin near the Mystery Spot, a tourist attraction in Santa Cruz. When he found that the cabin had another resident, a woman named Kathy Francis and her two sons, he got Gianera's new address from her. During that night, Mullin went to the Gianera's home on West Avenue and killed him and his wife and, at some point, killed Francis and her sons. Exactly in what order the murders occurred is uncertain, though an FBI profiler asserted that Mullin killed the Francises just after talking to the mother and then killed the Gianeras. Because both Jim Gianera and Kathy Francis' husband, Bob Francis, were drug dealers, the police thought the murders were drug-related and Mullin was not considered a suspect.

Mullin Trial

Mullin (left) being led to his trial.

Less than two weeks later, Mullin saw four teenage boys camping in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and approached them, posing as a park ranger. He told them to leave, claiming that they were "polluting" the forest. When they dismissed him, he pulled out a gun and shot them one by one, later stating that he had asked them telepathically if he could kill them and that they had all given him permission. A week later, on February 13, he used a rifle taken from the campsite to shoot and kill a man named Fred Perez. When a witness called for help, a police officer arrested Mullin, who didn't put up any resistance at all. At the police station, Mullin was completely uncooperative, shouting "Silence!" as a response to every single question. When Edmund Kemper was arrested, he and Mullin were briefly held in adjoining cells, where Kemper accused him of stealing his dump sites. He was charged with six counts of murder when evidence was found in his apartment. Four more counts, those of the campers, were added when their bodies were discovered on February 17 and he soon confessed to the first three murders, though he was not charged with them. A big issue during the trial was establishing whether or not he was eligible for the insanity plea. It was argued that his murders of the Gianeras and the Francises had some degree of premeditation. In the end, Mullin was found guilty of eight counts of second-degree murder (meaning he hadn't planned them in advance) and two counts of first-degree murder, those of Kathy Francis and Jim Gianera, and sentenced to life imprisonment. He served his sentence at the Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, California and wasn't eligible for parole until 2021 when he would be 74 years old. Mullin was also noted to have had interactions with Kemper. Kemper performed what he called "behavior modification treatment" on Mullin by giving him peanuts whenever Mullin was "good" (he sometimes bothered other prisoners by singing, so Kemper splashed water on him).

Mullin died in prison on August 18, 2022, aged 75, from natural causes

Modus Operandi[]

Mullin targeted random people of both genders and various ages and races. He killed them in different ways, mostly by shooting with two .22 caliber guns (a Rohm RG-14 revolver or an unspecified model rifle) but also by stabbing and bludgeoning. Sometimes, he knew the victims personally. Initially, he only killed one victim at a time, but later started killing whole groups of people.


Mullin had a fixation with earthquakes and believed that his birthday, April 18, had some significance because it is the anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and also the anniversary of the death of Albert Einstein; on the witness stand, he asserted that he had been "chosen as the designated leader of his generation". He believed that the many killings in North Vietnam during the Vietnam war had acted as a kind of sacrifices, preventing earthquakes, and that his own killings had the same effect on California, where earthquakes of various intensities are frequent, and that as the "leader" it was his duty to ensure that enough people died to prevent natural disasters. Prior to that, he had considered relocating to Canada in order to avoid them. He also came to believe that everything about his life had been part of a big conspiracy. He believed that his parents had been "killjoy reincarnationalists" who believed their next lives would be more enjoyable if they made those of others miserable, and that his rejection by the U.S. military had been part of the conspiracy, as had his parents.

Known Victims[]

Mullin's victims

Several of Mullin's victims

  • 1972:
    • October 13: Lawrence White, 55 (bludgeoned with a baseball bat)
    • October 24: Mary Guilfoyle, 24 (stabbed in the heart, chest, and back; eviscerated post-mortem)
    • November 2: Father Henry Tomei, 65 (beaten and fatally stabbed in the heart)
  • 1973:
    • January 25:
      • Jim Ralph and Joan Gianera (both were shot in the head and stabbed repeatedly)
        • Jim Ralph, 25
        • Joan Gianera, 21
      • The Francis family (all were fatally shot in the head, then stabbed repeatedly post-mortem)
        • Kathy Francis, 29 (mother; also shot in the chest)
        • Daemon Francis, 4 (son)
        • David Hughes, 9 (son)
    • February 6: Four teenagers killed at the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park shooting:
      • David Allan Oliker, 18
      • Robert Michel Spector, 18
      • Brian Scott Card, 19
      • Mark John Dreibelbis, 15
    • February 13: Fred Perez, 72 (shot in the heart with a rifle)

On Criminal Minds[]


Mullin in a flashback in "The Eyes Have It".

  • Season One
    • "Plain Sight" - Mullin is first mentioned by Reid as an example of serial killer with no victimology, meaning he never targeted any specific type of victim and killed almost randomly.
    • "Blood Hungry" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode, Mullin appears to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsub, Eddie Mays - Both were schizophrenic rampage killers who were raised by a strict parent (Mays's mother and Mullin's father, respectively), broke up with a girlfriend while in college (where they studied religion), used amphetamines and other drugs (which worsened their schizophrenia), and were institutionalized prior to their killings. As spree killers they had religious fixations which they implemented into their killings (Mays believed he could see God if he ate his victims' organs and could see their souls, while Mullin became obsessed with reincarnation and holy sacrifices), had a parent who influenced their crimes in some way (Mays's mother cleaned his crime scenes and even hid a victim he abducted, while Mullin alleged his father's voice told him to kill), they targeted random victims, stabbed or bludgeoned them to death (though Mullin also shot some of his, while Mays used a shotgun to bludgeon a victim to death but never actually shot anyone), their second victims (both women) were eviscerated post-mortem (though Mays mutilated all his victims), their last victim was elderly, they targeted a victim closely associated to them who they fixated on (Mullin's former drug dealer and Mays' child neighbor gifted in music, respectively), both visited a church at some point during their sprees (Mays was arrested outside of one, while Mullin's third victim was a priest he killed inside one), and were arrested easily and unsuccessfully interrogated afterwards. Furthermore, their crimes coincided with those of an unrelated criminal initially thought to be them in some way (Mullin was active at the same time as Edmund Kemper, while Mays's second victim had her home burglarized by Domino Thacker after her murder).
    • "A Real Rain" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode, Mullin appears to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsub, Marvin Doyle - Both were schizophrenic serial/spree killers who lost someone close to them (Mullin's friend and Doyle's parents, respectively), targeted seemingly random people for some delusional purpose (Mullin killed both acquaintances and strangers to supposedly stop earthquakes, while Doyle killed various people acquitted at trial under the belief they were all lying), shot or stabbed their victims (though Doyle stabbed to incapacitate before killing his victims by shooting them, and Mullin also bludgeoned his first), they killed a Father inside a church, one of their victims was connected to drugs in some way (Mullin killed a friend who dealt drugs to him, while Doyle killed a supposed drug addict), and both devolved overtime with shorter cool-off periods. Their crimes also correlated with an another killer unrelated to them.
  • Season Two
    • "The Last Word" - While not directly mentioned or referenced, both Mullin and Edmund Kemper seem to have been inspirations for the episode's two unsubs, The Hollow Man and The Mill Creek Killer. The Hollow Man in particular seems to have been based on Mullin - Both were serial killers who were active at the same time as another independent serial killer (who targeted women and engaged in sex with their corpses), both targeted mainly one gender (The Hollow Man targeted female prostitutes, while Mullin mainly killed men, yet also killed women and children), shot most of their victims with a revolver (though Mullin's M.O. was various), and both initially started out with killing one victim at a time before beginning to kill multiple victims at once.
    • "The Big Game" and "Revelations" - While not directly mentioned of referenced in these episodes, Mullin appears to be an inspiration for the episodes' unsub, Tobias Hankel - Both were violently psychotic serial killers with domineering fathers, hallucinated their fathers were commanding them to commit murder, lived with their fathers (though Hankel preserved his father's corpse), abused hallucinogenic drugs that amplified their psychosis, self-harmed because of their delusions, varied in victimology, killed with bladed weapons, used firearms in at least one of their crimes, broke into some victims' homes to murder them, and were stopped in the process of trying to kill their final victim (though only Mullin succeeded).
  • Season Five
    • "The Eyes Have It" - Mullin is mentioned again when it is believed that the unsub was also delusional and mission-driven. The comparison is accompanied by a flashback in which Mullin (who is portrayed by Marco Aiello) first cowers under a table during an earthquake and is then seen picking up a female hitchhiker and attacking her inside his car, apparently a flashback of his murder of Mary Guilfoyle.
  • Season Six
    • "With Friends Like These..." - While not directly mentioned or referenced, Mullin seems to have been an inspiration the episode's unsub, Ben Foster - Both were spree killers with schizophrenic delusions, stabbed their victims (though this was only one of Mullin's methods), were exactly the same age when they committed their crimes, committed at least one triple homicide, and had an elderly last victim. Also, the scene where Foster visits a priest for an exorcism seems to be a callback to Mullin's visit to Father Tomei. The only difference is Mullin killed the priest, while the unsub didn't (although it can be initially assumed that he did so due to the rage he flew into before the scene abruptly cut out).
  • Season Twelve
    • "Surface Tension" - While not directly mentioned or referenced, Mullin appears to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsub, Bryce Jarvis - Both were psychotic killers who lost someone prior to their killings (Jarvis's parents were killed when their house was swallowed by a sink hole, while Mullin's high school friend was killed in a car crash), were institutionalized prior to their killings, had delusions revolving around religion and a natural disaster (the aforementioned sinkhole and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, respectively), burned themselves, targeted both men and women, shot them with a revolver (though both had a widely varied M.O. and victimology, and Jarvis used a pistol too), and believed their killings were righteous sacrifices in some way.
  • Season Thirteen
    • "Bad Moon on the Rise" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode, Mullin appears to be an inspiration for the episode's unsub, Mitchell McCord - Both were psychotic serial/spree killers who lost someone close to them prior to their killings (McCord's son and Mullin's best friend, respectively), ended a romantic relationship afterwards, they developed drug addictions (which included the use of amphetamines, worsening their psychosis), killed victims of both genders out of paranoid delusions (McCord killed criminals or people perceived as such, while Mullin killed people under the belief it would stop earthquakes), mutilated at least some of their victims, killed one victim out of a personal vendetta (McCord killed a woman as a surrogate for his wife, while Mullin killed a former classmate who supplied him drugs), they killed four victims in a park, and were arrested in the process of escaping from a crime scene where they attacked a victim (McCord abducted a victim and fled to another location, while Mullin shot a victim dead before he was pulled over by police when his license plate was recognized).