Questions remain about this controversial murder case that was officially closed 11 days after the crime was committed. Many people-including the parents of the murdered girl-say justice has not been done, and they are demanding answers that the Columbus Police are either unwilling or unable to give.

From the January 1976 Issue of Columbus Monthly

Questions remain about this controversial murder case that was officially closed 11 days after the crime was committed. Many people-including the parents of the murdered girl-say justice has not been done, and they are demanding answers that the Columbus Police are either unwilling or unable to give.

What follows is the story of a brutal murder and its controversial aftermath. It started as a case with classic elements-a pretty teenaged girl is fatally beaten, after apparently having been raped, in a secluded area adjacent to a busy shopping center on a summer Saturday afternoon-the kind of crime that makes parents reflexively shudder and hold their own children a little closer; the kind that makes a police department determined to catch the criminal quickly.

When police apprehended Jack Carmen, a mentally retarded ward of the state, on a streetcorner in downtown Columbus, they may well have found the murderer. They are convinced they have. Carmen's first court-appointed lawyer thought they had. But the public remains largely unconvinced. Residents of the Graceland shopping center area where the murdered girl lived continue to doubt the remarkably fast flurry of events that put Carmen behind bars as a confessed murderer 11 days after the killing, but left unanswered so many baffling questions about the events of that August afternoon.

It fell finally to the Ohio State Lantern, the student newspaper, to do a full-scale investigative article on the murder of Christie Mullins. Reporter Jim Yavorcik spent eight weeks on the story and Rick Kelly, five. They followed possible leads, talked to dozens of people, including neighbors, alleged eyewitnesses, other reporters, and police. They compiled massive notes, from which a story came that appeared in the Lantern on Oct. 31.

The story of Christie Mullins unfolds yet. On the basis of their initial research for the Lantern and additional work since, Yavorcik and Kelly have written the following for Columbus Monthly. They have pieced together what is known and what is alleged, and have tried to draw some logical conclusions. Here is their story.

The basic outline of the Christie Mullins murder case reads like a plot from an upcoming Kojak episode. An attractive teenaged girl is found brutally beaten to death in the woods. Two witnesses help police draw a composite sketch of the murderer. Three days later, a traffic patrolman pulls a man off the street who resembles the sketch. The man confesses, pleads guilty, and is sentenced to life imprisonment all within the next nine days. The producers wouldn't even need to make it a two-part episode.

It is unlikely, though, that Kojak or any other television cop has faces the kind of wide-ranging public skepticism over a case that the Columbus Division of Police has faced in the Mullins case.

Instead of hearty congratulations and a pat on the back, the police and prosecution were confronted with a stormy neighborhood meeting of more than 70 persons who were doubtful that the police had arrested the right man in 25-year-old Jack Allen Carmen, a mentally retarded ward of the state.

The controversial case has so many confusing elements that a brief chronology is needed to put matters into perspective:

Aug. 23: Christie Mullins, 14, is murdered in the wooded area behind Graceland shopping center after being accompanied there by a friend, Carol Reeves. Two persons, Henry H. Newell Jr. and his wife, allegedly see the crime and help police draw a composite sketch of the killer.

Aug. 26: A man resembling the composite sketch is arrested and taken to police headquarters for questioning. After at least six hours of interrogation, the man confesses to the crime. The man's name is Jack Carmen.

Aug. 27: Carmen pleads innocent in Municipal Court and a hearing is scheduled for Sept. 3. Attorney Myron Shwartz is asked to represent Carmen by the Ohio Division of Mental Retardation. Shwartz advises Carmen to waive the preliminary hearing, and his is bound over to the Franklin County Grand Jury.

Sept. 2: The Grand Jury hands down indictments for rape, kidnapping, and three counts of murder with various specifications. Petitions begin circulating in the neighborhood where the murder took place, questioning the police investigation.

Sept. 3: Through plea bargaining, the charges are reduced to one count of aggravated murder, and Carmen pleads guilty. He is sentenced to life imprisonment.

Sept. 8: More than 70 persons attend a meeting at Sharon Township Hall to question the police investigation. Shortly after the meeting, the Justice for Jack Committee emerges.

Sept. 9: Carmen is visited in jail by a friend who later helps draft a letter dismissing Shwartz and requesting representation by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The court appoints three psychiatric and psychological specialists to conduct a post-sentence examination on Carmen.

Sept. 11: The ACLU appoints attorneys Robert P. App and Leonard J. Schwartz to represent Carmen.

Sept. 12: Myron Shwartz hears of his dismissal via television but confers with the Division of Mental Retardation before relinquishing the case. Meanwhile, ACLU attorneys are frustrated in their attempts to gain access to Carmen.

Sept. 15: Myron Shwartz officially files a motion to withdraw from the case. The ACLU continues to try to defend Carmen.

Sept. 17: The ACLU withdraws its motion to defend Carmen, and the court appoints attorney Richard Addison as defense counsel. All time limitations are waived to alleviate rising public pressure.

Nov. 19: Addison files a motion to set aside the judgment of conviction and withdraw the plea of guilty because of the question of Carmen's competency.

Just as the chronology only scratches the surface of this complex and enigmatic case, there are individuals who feel the police have done no more than that in their investigation. One such person is Norman V. Mullins, the father of the victim.

Mullins has been conducting his own investigation into the case which police say is closed. And there are many aspects that concern him. Mullins will tell anyone who'll listen, for instance, that he is suspicious of the testimony given by Carol Reeves, who is the last person-other than the murderer-known to have seen Christie alive.

Reeves, according to media accounts, received a phone call at about 1 p.m. on the day of the murder from a man with an Appalachian accent who identified himself as a disc jockey.

The man told Reeves, according to published accounts of her story, that there was to be a cheerleading contest behind Graceland shopping center that afternoon at 1:45. Reeves, who Mullins said was not a close friend of his daughter, went to get Christie at the Broadmeadows Apartments pool where Christie was swimming with her younger sister.

Reports in the Citizen-Journal and Dispatch, said that the two girls went to the rear of the shopping center and when no one showed up for the contest, Reeves went into the Woolco store to check the time, leaving Christie sitting alone on a guardrail outside the store. When Reeves returned, Christie was gone. Her body was found shortly afterwards in the woods about three-fourths of a mile away.

According to news accounts, Reeves said that she waited a few minutes at the rail, then for a short time at a nearby creek bed. Witnesses say Reeves was seen back at the pool at Broadmeadows between 2:30 and 3:30 p.m.

Mullins says he wasn't aware that his daughter was interested in cheerleading; he also says he finds it strange that she would've attended a cheerleading contest barefoot-which is how the body was found.

Police told residents of the neighborhood at the Sharon Township Hall meeting after the murder that Reeves was given a lie detector test and she appeared to be truthful on "important" parts of her story. Mullins says he believes the transcripts of that test are the key to much of the uncertainty in the case.

But Mullins says police have been uncooperative in helping him gain information about the phone all (which police have dismissed as "a prank"), and he says he was rudely treated when he went to the police asking about the questioning of Reeves.

He quoted Lt. Richard Hartman of the homicide squad as saying, "What's the matter, don't you trust us?" He said Hartman told him the case was closed and would stay closed.

"I only want to find out about my girl," Mullins said he replied.

When we confronted Harman with the Mullins story, Hartman angrily replied that Mr. Mullins and the newspapers could "go dip their nut holes."

"We don't tell you people how to run a newspaper, don't try to tell us how to run an investigation," he said. "The case is solved. Why do you think we have a main in jail?"

Mullins described two other incidents that continue to cause him and his wife to doubt the Reeves girl's story. One occurred the evening of the day of the murder, when Carol Reeves passed Mrs. Mullins as the mother was searching for her daughter (who hadn't come home for dinner) and Carol did not say anything about Christie's disappearance from the railing earlier that day. Mrs. Mullins eventually found her daughter . . . at the morgue.

The other incident happened the day after the murder, when Reeves stopped by on the street outside the Mullins home for a few minutes. "She became very emotional," Mullins said, "and blurted out something like, 'It was never supposed to go this far.'"

Mullins said she did not say what "it" was. Reeves' parents have not permitted anyone to speak with her about Mullins' comments, or any other aspect of the case.

Mullins is not only searching for a motive, but also is questioning whether Jack Carmen is indeed the murderer of his daughter. He says repeatedly that he doubts that "a skinny guy like Carmen" alone could force his daughter nearly three-fourths of a mile "without getting scratched up or someone hearing her scream."

"I'm not saying that Carmen wasn't involved, but how is one many going to drag Christie, as strong as she was, that far?" Mullins asks.

Christie was exceptionally strong for her age and very athletic, Mullins says. "She swam almost every day." He said Christie was about 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighed about 110 pounds, and the autopsy report described her as a "well-developed, well-nourished white female."

Mullins said Christie was well-liked in school by her friends and teachers. She regularly attended church and had never been on a date, to his knowledge. Understandably, he believes his daughter would not have gone willingly into the woods with a man she didn't know.

Mullins says he believes his daughter either was led into the woods by someone she knew or else she was abducted by more than one man. The principal eyewitness, Henry H. Newell Jr., told police he and his wife saw only one man.

Newell, who lives at 343 W. Kanawha Ave., just a short distance from the Reeves residence at 356 W. Kanawha and one street over from the Mullins home, told us what he saw:

He and his family (first reports had only Newell and his wife at the scene; later reports said the Newells' 10-year-old son was also there) were walking in the woods behind Graceland shopping center. At approximately 2:30 p.m., they came upon a man "swinging a long two-by-four in a wood-chopping motion," 20 or 30 feet from where they stood. Newell said the man turned and saw them, threw the board down and ran.

When Newell approached the scene, he found the body, which had been hidden by the dense underbrush. He said the board was across her face. He picked it up and threw it into the woods.

Christie's body lay face up with her hands wired together in the front; her blouse was pulled down to her waist, exposing her breasts. Newell's wife checked for a pulse but found none.

Christie's face was beaten to distortion. The fatal blows were struck on the left side of her skull. Bruce Walker, a Woolco employee, said, "I wouldn't have recognized her if it was my own daughter."

Newell said bubbles of blood were coming out of her nose, which led him to believe she was still breathing and still alive; he said that was the reason he did not chase the murderer.

Newell told police he had gotten a good look at the assailant. He said the man was wearing cut-off jeans and no shirt. He said the murderer was in his late teens, was about 6 feet tall and weighed between 140 and 150 pounds. His hair was long, black and shiny, and he looked as if he had not shaved for several days. Newell and his wife helped police draw a composite sketch, which appeared in the Dispatch on Aug. 25.

Three days after the murder, in a chance apprehension that one policeman, Detective Robert Litzinger, was quoted as saying "probably won't happen again in a million years." Carmen was picked up in downtown Columbus, near Third and Town Streets. A traffic officer, Ptl. Thomas R. Stroud, noticed that Carmen resembled the composite sketch, furnished the police by the Newells, and took him to headquarters for questioning.

After more than six hours of questioning, Carmen, as reported in the Dispatch and Citizen-Journal, confessed to the following:

Dressed in cut-off shorts, Carmen took a COTA bus to Graceland shopping center after leaving the Volunteers of America at 379 W. Broad St., where he had been residing since the previous Wednesday.

He saw Christie sitting on the guardrail outside the Woolco store, grabbed her by the wrist and took her into the woods, threatening to kill her if she did not cooperate.

He said he raped her and told her his name. Then he said Christie started to run and said she would tell her mother. Carmen said he picked up a board, chased her, and began to hit her with it. After fleeing the scene, he returned downtown via COTA bus.

Carmen was identified in the police lineup by both Newell and his wife. Newell insists that Carmen is the man he saw in the woods that day, and adds that since he has been in prison himself, he would not want to send another person there unless he was absolutely certain of his guilt.

Newell's credibility has been questioned by neighbors, in part because of his police record. "I got a record with the FBI that's reach to that wall and back," he told us. (Newell's statement appears to be verified by a copy of his police record, made available to Columbus Monthly. The record shows several charges of arson, intimidating a witness, and corrupting a minor.)

Among the many skeptical neighbors in the Graceland area, rumors have circulated that Newell was allowed to see Carmen before picking him out of a police lineup, which if true would call into question the validity of Newell's positive identification. One neighbor, a man who strongly disbelieves Newell's story, said Newell told him he saw Carmen in a police cruiser at the shopping center the night of the apprehension, before police asked him to identify Carmen in the lineup downtown. Newell denies this.

Police said a third person also identified Carmen, but she later changed her mind. She said she had seen a man running from the woods on the day of the murder who allegedly fit the description of the assailant. According to a report by Bob Singleton of WCOL radio, the woman was taken to Graceland while police had Carmen there to verify points in the confession; as she and police stood behind the car in which Carmen was held, she was asked if Carmen was the man she saw running. Police refused to let her see Carmen from the front.

Police have refused to comment on these accounts and whether Newell and the woman were allowed to see Carmen prior to a lineup.

Many people remain unconvinced about other parts of the investigation as well, and one of the most often scrutinized and discussed pieces of the puzzle is the Carmen confession. The two major contradictions seem to be the question of rape and the time element-whether Carmen could have had enough time to arrive at the murder scene after leaving the VOA.

On the question of rape, Franklin County Coroner William R. Adrion was quoted before the Carmen confession as saying Christie had not been sexually molested. After the confession, Adrion said this statement was based on the report of the pathologist who performed the autopsy, which showed "no visible signs of rape."

The autopsy shows that tests for sperm and semen were both negative. Dr. Nobuhisa Baba, who performed the autopsy, refused to interpret that result.

Although there was no apparent evidence of rape from the autopsy, assistant prosecutor Ronald J. O'Brien was quoted in the C-J as saying semen was found on Christie's body and clothing. O'Brien, who has said he is positive police have the killer-"There's just no doubt about it"-has been quoted also as saying Carmen's admission of raping the girl was a key clue. He has refused to comment when later asked about his statement.

The seeming lack of positive proof of rape casts doubt on the accuracy of Carmen's confession. So does the fact that Carmen allegedly told police he took a COTA bus to the scene of the crime, inasmuch as the time factor makes it difficult to reconcile what Carmen said happened with what seems physically possible.

Carmen was seen at the OA building at approximately 1:35 p.m. by Carmella Boilon, assistant director of the VOA. She said she knew it was after 1:30 because of her work schedule. Graham LeStourgeon, director of the VOA, said a number of people saw Carmen "within the hour after paychecks were give out." This was between 1:30 and 1:40, LeStourgeon said.

However, it would have been necessary for Carmen to be on the corner of Broad and High streets by 1:30 if he were to make it via bus to Graceland by 2:15, the approximate time of the murder. The Worthington bus, which goes as far as Graceland leaves on the hour and on the half-hour, and a driver who makes the run most Saturdays said the trip, takes about 35 minutes.

In addition to the time it takes to get from downtown to Graceland, it is another 5- to 10-minute walk from High Street to the spot on the guardrail where Christie was allegedly abducted.

The guardrail is at least a half-mile of fairly rough terrain from where the body was found. Even if Carmen did somehow catch a 1:30 bus, it would have been nearly impossible (and that is an important nearly) to cover all this distance and still have time to rape the girl and commit the murder by 2:20.

Carmen does not have a driver's license, but if he had driven it would still have been difficult to get to Graceland any sooner because of the heavy traffic on the first Saturday of the Ohio State Fair.

The questionable elements of the Carmen confession have caused some of his friends and many people totally outside the case to believe the mentally retarded man was led into this confession and guilty plea.

The Rev. David Riley, chaplain at Franklin County Jail, was present as Carmen "nervously" signed the guilty plea. He offered some insight into the personality of the confessed killer, stressing that his observations reflect on his own opinion.

Riley termed Carmen "an unreliable witness because of the fact that you've got to put everything in his mouth. You don't get anything out of him unless you lead him. I've seen that."

The chaplain said he believes Carmen fulfills the expectations of the person asking him the question. Riley added that Carmen does not need to be coerced: one need only suggest something to him.

"If you wanted him to say he was innocent, you'd have to lead him that way also," continued Riley. "Jack is not talking by himself. He is not a complete person in that respect."

However, in the Entry of Guilty Plea, Carmen signed a statement prepared by his attorney, Myron Shwartz, saying "No one has made any threats to me . . . or in any other way coerced or induced met to plead guilty."

Even so, Riley's observations were echoed by Freve Lohrman, a former social worker, who knew Carmen when he lived at Mellet Group Home on Columbus' east side.

"Jack would rarely initiate conversations," she said, "unless it was something he knew you wanted to hear." Both Lohrman and Jesse Smith, who served as Carmen's "foster father" for two years, have questioned other areas of Carmen's confession. They say Carmen would never wear shorts. He thought they were for sissies, Lohrman said. Newell had told police the murderer was wearing cut-offs, and according to police accounts of Carmen's confession, Carmen acknowledged he was wearing cut-offs that day.

Lohrman and Jennifer Groce, a former vocational instructor of Carmen's, both related instances of Carmen's confessing to something that another person confessed to later. "He hates to stand up for himself," said Lohrman.

Groce, the chairperson of the Justice for Jack Committee, said she spoke with Carmen shortly after his guilty plea, and she believes a fear of the electric chair, was the reason for his plea. "All Jack had to do was hear 'electric chair' and he'd confess to anything," she said.

Groce said the committee was formed in the aftermath of the Sharon Township meeting in which many of the discrepancies in the case were presented to the police. She said she thinks that the police may not have been delicate enough in handling the mentally retarded Carmen during their interrogation, resulting in a false confession. "The Committee is not simply concerned with getting Jack off," Groce says. "We're interested in finding out the truth."

A psychiatrist who examined Carmen in late October, Dr. Charles W Harding, stated that Carmen is "not able to comprehend the situation he is in."

"Furthermore," Harding stated in a letter to Carmen's new defense attorney, Richard Addison, "it is my opinion that he is not mentally capable of furnishing his counsel with the facts essential to the presentation of a proper defense."

This contradicts a statement by Myron Shwartz, the attorney who pleaded Carmen guilty. He said that when he began to discuss a plea with Carmen, Carmen appeared to have the "ability to discuss the case and to participate in his own defense, i.e. being competent to stand trial."

Shwartz had been asked to represent Carmen by a staff member of the Ohio Division of Mental Retardation on the day following Carmen's arrest.

Three of the charges brought against Carmen were murder with specifications, all of which carry the death penalty. The prosecutor offered to reduce the charges to aggravated murder, dropping all other charges in exchange for a guilty plea, and Shwartz said he acted quickly to avoid the death penalty.

After entering his plea of guilty on Sept. 3, Carmen was sentenced to life imprisonment by Common Pleas Judge Frederick T. Williams. Williams ordered that he be held in Franklin County Jail until psychological testing had been completed.

Shwartz quoted Carmen as saying that he wanted to get the case over with "so my friends won't be made at me and so God won't be made at me."

Shwartz also said publicly he was convinced Carmen committed the crime, and that Carmen did not confess just to be agreeable with police. Shwartz's action has been widely criticized, and could make it difficult, some observers believe, for subsequent attorneys to build a case. Benson Wolman, executive director for the Ohio ACLU, said, "Myron's a good attorney, but even the best make mistakes sometimes."

Less than a week after sentencing, Carmen was visited in jail by a friend, Ralph Emrich. When Carmen asked him when he would get out of jail, Emrich told him to get another attorney.

On Sept. 11, Emrich helped Carmen draft letters requesting that Shwartz be dismissed and that Carmen be represented by the ACLU. Copies were sent to Shwartz and to Judge Williams.

Shwartz said he first heard of his dismissal the following day on television. Although he had gone on the record that he believed Carmen was competent to stand trial, he said at that time he did not believe Carmen was competent to change attorneys.

As a result, ACLU attorneys were denied access to Carmen until after Shwartz conferred with the Division of Mental Retardation. Shwartz then met with Carmen, who expressed the belief that he would be out of jail in time for Thanksgiving if he obtained a new attorney. It was then that Shwartz filed a motion to withdraw from the case.

ACLU attorneys Robert P. App and Leonard J. Schwartz attempted to represent Carmen when it was certain that Myron Shwartz would withdraw. Two days after Myron Shwartz withdrew, the ACLU also withdrew its request to defend Carmen.

During that time when the ACLU attempted to represent Carmen, App and Schwartz filed a motion for the disqualification of Williams as the trial judge and a motion to withdraw the guilty plea. When they withdrew from the case, the motions were nullified.

Williams then appointed attorney Richard Addison to the defense and ordered that Carmen remain in Franklin County Jail until further order of the court. Williams waived all time limitations, saying that this was not an ordinary case and should not be treated as such. More than two months later, on Nov. 19, Addison filed a motion to set aside judgment of conviction and withdraw the plea of guilty.

The motion was filed "on the ground that his (Carmen's) plea of guilty was entered without his full understanding of the nature of the charge, the effect of the plea, or his rights in the proceedings . . . Counsel has concluded that he cannot make intelligent judgments as to the course of this case."

It is likely that an inquiry eventually will be held concerning Carmen's sanity, and his Carmen's sanity, and his capability to stand trial. It is, at this writing, still uncertain whether the entire case of Christie Mullins' murder will ever be heard publicly. And until it is, the questions will remain. If Jack Carmen is sent to Lima State Hospital for the criminally insane instead of standing trial, the questions may never be answered, the testimonies never heard, all the evidence never made public.

Section 2901.05 of the Ohio Revised Code says "Every person accused of an offense is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and the burden of proof is upon the prosecution." An entire neighborhood will insist that there is reasonable doubt as matters now stand.

James Yavorcik and Rick Kelly are senior journalism majors at Ohio State University.