Murderer of two sex offenders sentenced to 44 years

BELLINGHAM — A man who portrayed himself as an avenging angel for child sex-crime victims was sentenced to more than 44 years in prison Friday for killing two sex offenders.

Michael A. Mullen, 36, escaped a potential life sentence in a plea deal reached this week, ending a case considered one of the nation's worst cases of vigilantism against sex offenders.

Mullen had confessed to the high-profile killings in letters to the news media, expressing a desire to be executed as a symbol of retribution against sex offenders.

But he sat silently in court Friday when a judge issued his sentence.

"I almost wish we could have heard from you," said Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Ira Uhrig. "You put yourself above the law, and by doing so in some sense you put yourself above the rights of every citizen in the state of Washington."

Mullen was initially charged with premeditated first-degree murder for the Aug. 27 slayings of Hank Eisses, 49, and Victor Vasquez, 68, charges that could have resulted in a life sentence.

Mullen's plea to second-degree murder eliminated the premeditation element, but his sentence likely will give the same result of a lifetime in prison, said Mac Setter, Whatcom County's chief criminal prosecutor.

The execution-style killings of Eisses and Vasquez — Level 3 sex offenders convicted of crimes against minors — alarmed law-enforcement and corrections officials.

The men's address was listed on Washington's sex-offender registry, the first such database in the country, and officials feared that public outrage over sex offenders could lead to copy-cat crimes. No such trend has emerged.

Mullen, a petty criminal with alcohol and drug problems, turned himself in a week after the deaths. Police say he posed as an FBI agent when he knocked on Eisses' door.

In letters to The Seattle Times, Mullen said he targeted Eisses through the sex-offender registry and was surprised when he found two other sex offenders, Vasquez and James Russell, also were living in Eisses' Bellingham house.

Mullen claims he interviewed the three before letting Russell go.

"... Out of the three only one showed remorse or guilt. He is the one I let go," he wrote. "... I came to the conclusion that they must die, along with my own execution at the hands of the state, to drive my point home that 'WE' will protect 'our' children."

Vasquez's daughter, Eve, wept Friday as she addressed Mullen in court, lamenting that she could not continue a renewed relationship with her father.

"He's dead and he's not supposed to be dead," she said.

After the hearing, she told reporters, "I'm absolutely satisfied. Now I can take time to grieve and mourn my loss."

In his letters, Mullen said he was spurred to action by Joseph Edward Duncan III.

A convicted sex offender and former Washington prison inmate, Duncan is accused of murdering a North Idaho woman, her son and her boyfriend, then kidnapping and molesting the woman's 9-year-old son, Dylan Groene, and 8-year-old daughter, Shasta.

Duncan is accused of killing Dylan after molesting him.

Mullen said he would welcome the death penalty in order to beat Duncan into the afterlife and hold him accountable for the Groene family's deaths.

"I will see to it personally that their deaths and abuse was not in vain!" he wrote to The Times.

Mullen said he hoped his crime — as well as the Duncan case — would shock the state Legislature into getting tougher on sex offenders.

Legislators passed a package of new laws this last session.

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