Howard teen guilty of slaying his tutor

January 29, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer Staff writer James M. Coram contributed to this article.

Wayne Mullinix believes justice prevailed yesterday when a Howard Circuit Court jury convicted a Columbia teen-ager of raping and strangling his wife.

Mr. Mullinix, of Dayton, sat through five days of testimony that detailed the events leading up to and following the slaying of his wife, Shirley, on March 25, 1992.

"The family is relieved that it's over," Mr. Mullinix said in an interview yesterday afternoon. "Justice was done."

A jury of seven women and five men found Alton Romero Young guilty of murder during the commission of a felony, first-degree rape and unauthorized use of a vehicle. Young, a 17-year-old Kings Contrivance resident, was acquitted on charges of first-degree murder, robbery, kidnapping and perverted sexual practices.

The jury had deliberated for about 9 1/2 hours before reaching its verdict at 3 a.m.

Young stood impassively as the jury was polled -- each member standing and answering "yes" in a strong clear voice when asked, "Is your foreman's verdict your verdict?"

Winopa Addison, Young's mother, broke into sobs when the foreman announced the verdict, flinching uncontrollably with each juror's "yes."

Several seats away, Mr. Mullinix stared straight ahead and showed no emotion.

Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Murtha said he would seek a sentence of life without parole for the murder conviction and a life sentence for the rape conviction. The sentences would be served simultaneously.

Determining the difference between second-degree murder and felony murder caused the jury to become temporarily deadlocked.

Jurors sent Circuit Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. a message at 12:10 a.m. saying they had decided everything else and wanted to go home for the night.

But after the judge asked them to clarify their situation, they decided to keep on deliberating.

At 3 a.m. they shared a guilty verdict that seemed to confirm the closing argument of the prosecutor. "This was not the recklessness of youth," he had told the jury. "This was a coldblooded, brutal raping and murdering of Shirley Mullinix."

Mr. Mullinix said he and his family will prepare a statement to present at Young's sentencing hearing, which has not been scheduled.

Mrs. Mullinix, a 57-year-old home instructor for the county Board of Education, was slain after going to Young's apartment in the 7500 block of Murray Hill Road for a lesson.

Mr. Murtha offered the theory that Young raped his instructor and then strangled her to prevent her from reporting the rape.

"You can feel the sense of trust [Mrs. Mullinix] had for her students," Mr. Murtha said during closing arguments.

"She extended her trust, only to be betrayed."

Assistant Public Defender Richard Bernhardt acknowledged that Young murdered Mrs. Mullinix, but he argued for a conviction of a lesser charge -- second-degree murder, an offense that carries a 30-year sentence.

The defense attorney portrayed his client as a youth who acted in a "childish rage" without taking time to think about his actions.

"Sometimes a chain of events is simple," Mr. Bernhardt said during closing arguments. "Sometimes a tragedy is exactly what it appears to be and nothing more."

During the trial, the prosecution played a tape in which Young told police investigators that he strangled Mrs. Mullinix with his mother's scarf.

Young also said in the confession that he took Mrs. Mullinix's body to a Kings Contrivance convenience store and left the body behind the shop.

The defendant said he then tied the sleeve of the victim's sweat jacket around her neck to make the death appear to have been suicide.

Mr. Murtha introduced DNA evidence and other scientific tests that linked semen found on the victim and her clothing to Young.

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