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Final arguments made at O.C. murder trial

Ian Allen only helped girl dump her mom's body, his attorney says.

September 16, 2008|Christopher Goffard | Times Staff Writer

Ian W. Allen's attorney acknowledges that soon after Barbara Mullenix was stabbed and slashed to death in her Huntington Beach bedroom on Sept. 13, 2006, Allen helped stuff her body in a cardboard television box, haul it to Newport Harbor and dump it in the bay.

The 56-year-old woman's body was found covered with 52 wounds, including a slashed jugular and a butter knife from her own kitchen jammed into her eye. But during closing arguments in Allen's first-degree murder trial Monday in Orange County Superior Court, his attorney argued that the killing itself was the work of the victim's daughter and Allen's then-girlfriend, Rachael.

Rachael Mullenix, then 17, who had come to hate her mother after enduring years of verbal abuse and belligerent drunkenness, killed her mother "in a rage" and then persuaded the "peaceful" Allen to help cover it up, Deputy Public Defender Julie Swain told jurors. Dismissing Allen's confession, the lawyer argued that he agreed to take the blame because he loved her.

"He did the not-so-smart but chivalrous thing of saying, 'I did it, I killed her,' " Swain said. "The only person who was going to shove and pound a knife into Barbara Mullenix's eye was her daughter."

It was essentially the same argument, in reverse, made by Rachael Mullenix when she stood trial in July for first-degree murder. Taking the stand, she admitted to cleaning up the crime scene but blamed Allen for the killing. She was convicted and awaits sentencing.

Now Allen, 23, of Huntington Beach faces trial and a potential life sentence. Addressing jurors Monday, prosecutor Sonia Balleste argued that days before the slaying, Allen spoke to friends about killing Barbara Mullenix, taking her body by car to the desert and blowing it up with explosives. One friend jokingly suggested he dispose of her in the water.

Rachael Mullenix had fought bitterly with her mother for years, and in Tampa, Fla., in 2004 she slashed her mother with a knife and left her arms scored with cuts. The girl drew a lesson from the experience, the prosecutor said: "It's gonna take two. She couldn't finish the job."

The prosecutor said Rachael portrayed her mother as evil to her boyfriend and manipulated him into taking part in the killing.

"Ian is in love with Rachael Mullenix and wants to marry her," Balleste said. "Real or perceived, Barbara stands in their way." She added, "Ian Allen wanted Barbara Mullenix to suffer a slow and painful death."

Three days before the slaying, Rachael Mullenix sent Allen a text message that read: "After what my mom has done 2 U you can do whatever U want as long as U don't get hurt or in trouble." The prosecutor pointed to a text-message exchange between Allen and Rachael soon before her mother's death, which reflected "an agreement to kill."

Rachael: "I think my mom went to bed."

Allen: "It must be quiet."

Rachael: "She woke up. And she locked both her bedroom doors."

The prosecutor said Barbara Mullenix was restrained and stabbed with at least three different knives, two of which -- a folding knife and the butter knife -- were recovered. Her hands were covered with slashes from trying to shield herself.

Balleste said it does not matter, in order to find Allen guilty, whether he restrained Mullenix or stabbed her.

"At the end of the day, they're both murderers," Balleste said. "It's an imperfect world. I don't think that makes it open season on mothers who are less than perfect."

Ridiculing the defense theory that Rachael acted alone, the prosecutor said that would require her to possess "the strength of Samson and the knife skills of a samurai."

After the killing, Allen withdrew $300 from Barbara Mullenix's credit union account and fled by truck with Rachael on Interstate 10, heading to Florida. They were stopped in Lafayette Parish, La.

Allen and Mullenix were put in a police car together, and their conversation was secretly recorded. "You need to plead insanity," she told him, the prosecutor said.

Jurors are expected to deliberate Tuesday.

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christopher.goffard@latimes.com

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