Booster

Writer enlists CAC in quest to find teenager's killer

Murder behind Graceland store unsolved after nearly 40 years

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The summer of 1975 was a fairly innocent time for Columbus, in the minds of those looking back nearly four decades.

But when a 14-year-old Clintonville girl was found beaten to death behind the Graceland Shopping Center, some of that innocence was lost.

"There's never been justice for Christie Mullins," John Oller said last week.

The former attorney, who now writes nonfiction, is working on a book about the Aug. 23, 1975, murder and the aftermath that many in the area still recall vividly.

Oller, the brother of Columbus Dispatch sports columnist Rob Oller, was a journalism student at Ohio State University when the girl's body was found behind the old Woolco store in the shopping center. Mullins had gone there that day after someone posing as a disc jockey reportedly called her home and said a cheerleading contest was being held behind the store, with tickets to the Ohio State Fair going to the winner.

A man with a developmental disability was taken into custody and confessed to the murder, but later recanted and was acquitted in a sensational trial two years later. John Oller was on the staff of the OSU student newspaper, The Lantern, when two of his colleagues broke a major investigative story about the Mullins murder case.

Now, he hopes his efforts to uncover more information could result in the killer being brought to justice -- or at least identified.

An October story in ThisWeek Booster and a post on a Facebook page for alumni of Whetstone High School, where Christie Mullins was about to begin her sophomore year, have brought the writer a wealth of information and sources, he said.

"It's been a very strong response," Oller said.

From that, as well as interviews with more than 100 people, the vast majority of whom were living in the area at the time, but also journalists and law enforcement personnel, Oller wrote an article about the case that was published on the alumni Facebook page.

"It's generated into the hundreds of ... comments, likes, shares, tweets," he said. "It's gone somewhat viral, at least within the old community.

"It sort of demonstrates the depths of feeling about this. Most people don't need any reminders about what this case was about."

Last week, at the urging of a Whetstone graduate, Oller turned to the members of the Clintonville Area Commission, seeking their support for a campaign to reopen the old case.

CAC members voted unanimously, with Chairman Daniel B. Miller abstaining and D Searcy of District 9 absent, to send letters to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien, Columbus police Chief Kim Jacobs and Andrew J. Ginther, president of City Council.

The goal is to get public officials and law enforcement personnel to revive efforts to solve the girl's murder, Oller said.

"They obviously have tools at their disposal that a citizen does not," he said. "I think the CAC (is) in a position to lend some support to this. The CAC initiative is really a result of people on Facebook and social media being very enthusiastic and supportive but asking how can they translate that reaction into action."

Nearly two dozen people, including Oller, were on hand at last week's CAC meeting to support the letters.

"I think it's our best and maybe the last chance we have to get this reopened," said Bill Huber, who attended what was then Dominion Junior High School at the same time as Mullins.

"We're her voice now," Huber added.

Oller said he believes the solution to the mystery is out there.

"I think probably the most likely venue is to get people to talk who have not talked in the past or did talk but didn't tell the whole story," he said.

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