Teen admitted to killing, police say Detective testifies at pre-trial hearing

December 16, 1992|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

The Columbia youth charged with strangling his home tutor March 25 confessed to the killing three times the next day, blaming drugs and pressure to do classwork, a detective testified yesterday.

Howard County Police Detective Lee Lachman also testified that 16-year-old Alton Romero Young told police he killed 57-year-old Shirley Rue Mullinix accidentally.

The youth's public defender is asking the court to bar what police say are written, oral and audiotaped confessions. The first-degree murder trial is set for Jan. 20.

In a pre-trial hearing that started yesterday, attorney Richard Bernhardt alleged his client's constitutional right to due process was violated because police interrogated him before reading him his rights.

Police questioned the youth five times, once at his mother's home, where police asked him mainly about whether Mrs. Mullinix had arrived for their tutoring session, Detective Lachman testified. Police then asked the youth to come to the station to file a written statement, because he apparently was the last person to talk to the teacher, he said.

After the youth finished the written statement, police confronted him with evidence of an unsigned time sheet that Mrs. Mullinix had marked before their tutoring session. The rest of the sheet, which police found in a trash bin, was blank, indicating the session had not been finished. As the youth responded to the officer's remarks, he confessed to the murder, Detective Lachman said.

The youth told police he had argued with his teacher about doing classwork that day, and that he killed her accidentally.

"After he said it was an accident, . . . he went on to give a recitation of what happened," Detective Lachman said.

"He said when Mrs. Mullinix arrived, he did not feel like studying because he was high.

"He went into the kitchen and knocked her down to the floor. He said she hit the floor hard," Detective Lachman said.

The youth said he began flicking a scarf at her that had been lying on a living room table, and "the next thing he knew, he was on top of her and was strangling her with a scarf," Detective Lachman said.

After she died, the youth said he wrapped her sweater around her neck and put her in her car, driving to the back of a nearby High's store where he left her body, Detective Lachman said. The youth said he threw her keys on the store's roof, where police found a beaded key ring that belonged to Mrs. Mullinix, Detective Lachman said.

After he gave his recitation, the youth asked police "if he was under arrest now," Detective Lachman said.

Police said yes and then read him his rights, Detective Lachman said. Then the youth gave another oral confession, which police recorded, and filled out another written statement.

Police later charged the youth with rape and perverted sexual practices after they finished forensic tests and a serological analysis. Police allege that the Young youth raped Mrs. Mullinix as he strangled her and had intercourse with her after she died.

The hearing continues today.

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