It's impossible for Huntington Beach teenager Rachael Mullenix to have reacted more bitterly to her mother's 1 a.m. curfew, especially after she bragged she'd discovered how to use sex to manipulate men.
In September 2006, Rachael, then 17, and her 21-year-old boyfriend, Ian Allen, used three or four knives to stab Barbara Mullenix more than 50 times and then dumped the corpse in Newport Harbor near Corona del Mar with a butter knife protruding from an eye socket, according to police reports.
From her new home–a prison cell at Chowchilla's Central California Women's Facility, Rachael continues to insist she is innocent of a murder committed solely by Allen, and that both Orange County homicide prosecutor Sonia Balleste and an inept defense lawyer robbed her of a fair trial.
According to Rachael, Balleste didn't just improperly inflame the jury but she also presented “a deliberate distortion of evidence” while her counsel failed to make key objections.
Besides, she argued, Balleste should have been softer on the defense given her youth.
It is true the prosecutor called the defendant “a vampire” during the trial, argued it was “impossible” only one person inflicted all the stab wounds even though her own forensic expert witness had testified otherwise, and won on the record rebukes from the judge, David Thompson.
But federal magistrate Judge Jacqueline Chooljian studied the complaint in depth and noted critical, incriminating evidence: After the duo was arrested fleeing in Louisiana, cops placed them in a police vehicle, secretly turned on a recording device and left them alone.
Rachael can be heard reminding her boyfriend to take the fall and urging him to claim he'd kidnapped her after the killing.
Law enforcement also recovered text messages Rachael sent Allen in the hours before the attack on Barbara, including, “Ian, I don't care what I have to do in order to be with you! Nothing is going to take you away from me.”
Chooljian concluded Balleste's conduct did not sabotage due process rights and that Rachael's lawyer hadn't committed malpractice in her defense.
This month, U.S. District Court Judge Manuel L. Real accepted Chooljian's findings and closed the case.
Upshot: Rachael, now 25, will continue serving her 25 years to life punishment.
Allen earned the same sentence and lives in a California State Prison cell at Centinela.
CNN-featured investigative reporter R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; obtained one of the last exclusive prison interviews with Charles Manson disciple Susan Atkins; won inclusion in Jeffrey Toobin’s The Best American Crime Reporting for his coverage of a white supremacist’s senseless murder of a beloved Vietnamese refugee; launched multi-year probes that resulted in the FBI arrests and convictions of the top three ranking members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department; and gained praise from New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing entrenched Southern California law enforcement corruption.