Letter tells killer's reasoning for slaying 2 pedophiles

The man who confessed to the execution-style slayings of two Bellingham sex offenders says he didn't kill a third man that day because he expressed remorse for his crimes.

Besides, Michael A. Mullen wrote in a letter to The Seattle Times, "... I wanted one alive to spread the message that 'we' will not tolerate 'our' children being used and abused."

Whatcom County prosecutor Mac Setter said Mullen's references to his victims' lack of remorse as a reason for killing them was just self-serving justification. He said Mullen planned to kill the men all along.

Mullen writes he killed Victor Vazquez, 68, and Hank Eisses, 49, because they "blammed [sic] their victims — they showed NO remorse."

Mullen, 35, a longtime petty criminal with a history of drug and alcohol abuse, reiterated his plan to seek execution as soon as possible so that he can wait in the afterlife to wreak vengeance on the man whose crimes he said drove him to kill: Joseph Edward Duncan III.

"My goal is to beat J. Duncan to death, so I can be there when he arrives," he wrote in the four-page letter in neat longhand sent from Whatcom County Jail.

Duncan is a Level 3 sex offender — considered to have a high risk of reoffending — who faces possible execution in Idaho for allegedly slaying three members of a Coeur d'Alene family so that he could kidnap two children for sex. The body of one of those children, Dylan Groene, 9, was found in a Montana campground. His 8-year-old sister, Shasta, was rescued July 2 while she and Duncan were having breakfast at a Coeur d'Alene restaurant.

The awful details of those crimes, Mullen wrote, drove him to commit the crimes he's accused of.

"It made me sick to think of the abuse Dylan suffered before he died. To be discarded like garbage," Mullen wrote.

Mullen has confessed to the slayings to police and in letters sent to the media before his arrest. He also indicated his desire to plead guilty during his first court appearance.

But his letter, sent in response to written questions from a Times reporter, offers more details of his state of mind when he targeted Eisses, who had been living quietly with two roommates in Bellingham.

Mullen allegedly used a county sheriff's Sex Offender Notification Web site to create a hit list of Level 3 offenders in Whatcom County. According to prosecutors' charging papers, Mullen — posing as an off-duty FBI agent — went to a Bellingham home shared by the three convicted sex offenders on the evening of Aug. 26.

In the letter, Mullen wrote he had gone to "interview" Eisses, the owner of the home. "I wanted to know 'why' he did what he did," Mullen wrote.

Eisses had served 5-½ years in prison for raping a 13-year-old boy. He was freed in 2003. Vazquez was convicted in 1991 of molesting several children.

Law-enforcement officials have said Mullen used the ruse that he was there on FBI business to warn the occupants of the house they might be in danger from someone who was targeting sex offenders.

In his letter, Mullen said he checked the identities of the three men in the house — Vazquez, Eisses and 42-year-old James Russell. He questioned them about their background and confirmed they were all Level 3 offenders.

"I then interviewed all three occupants, and out of the three only one showed remorse or guilt. He is the one I let go," he wrote.

According to the charging papers, Russell then left for work. He found the bodies of his roommates later.

Michael Mullen has told his brother, Larry, it seemed Vazquez and Eisses were bragging about their crimes. To Larry Mullen, the explanation lacked a certain logic. Why would offenders brag to an FBI officer?

Maybe, Larry Mullen speculated yesterday, Vazquez and Eisses were merely describing their crimes — at Michael Mullen's request — but it sounded like bragging to Michael Mullen's ears.

Efforts to locate Russell, whom Mullen had let go, yesterday were unsuccessful.

Setter, chief criminal deputy prosecutor for Whatcom County, said yesterday the version of events Mullen outlines in his letter is consistent with statements he has made to investigators.

Setter has charged Mullen with two counts of aggravated first-degree murder, which could result in the death penalty if he is convicted. Arraignment is scheduled for next week.

Mullen has written several letters and given statements to police and others about the crimes. During the past several weeks, Setter believes, the statements have become more self-serving.

"He is trying to justify these killings, to make it sound like these men had some choice in their deaths, that he interviewed them and they failed his test by not being remorseful. They did not," Setter said yesterday. "He intended to kill them from the outset."

Mullen has refused to have the court appoint a lawyer for him. The public defender who has been appointed as standby counsel, Richard Fasy, said he was "not surprised" Mullen had written the letter and again confessed to the crimes.

"All I can say is that he is not that bad of a guy in some respects," Fasy said.

Mullen is believed to have also authored several postings on a Web log confessing to the crimes and saying he was molested as a child. While he did not address those issues specifically in his letter to The Times, he does say his past was partly what drove him to take the law into his own hands.

"Don't get me wrong. 'I' am no saint," he wrote. "I've been haunted since childhood. I just don't want other children to grow up confused, sad, scared.

"I am not proud of taking two lives, I would have gladly just gave my own," Mullen added. "But my death alone would have meant nothing."

In another section, Mullen talks about how he believes child victims of sexual abuse continue to be abused by the justice system and society.

"Some of these children will grow up to be drunks, addicts, theifs [sic] or act out sexually, sometimes becoming pedophiles themselfs," he wrote.

In an interview last week, Larry Mullen described many of those traits in his troubled brother, although there is no history of committing sex crimes.

Mullen has a long history of drug and alcohol abuse and criminal convictions for forgery and theft.

Seattle Times staff reporter Maureen O'Hagan contributed to this report. Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or mcarter@seattletimes.com